Sir Bernard Spilsbury (16 May 1877 - 17 December 1947) was a British pathologist who is regarded as the father of forensic pathology.
He was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, the eldest of the four children of James Spilsbury, a manufacturing chemist, and his wife, Marion Elizabeth Joy. On 3 September 1908, Spilsbury married Edith Caroline Horton. They had four children together: one daughter, Evelyn, and three sons, Alan, Peter, and Richard.
The case that brought Spilsbury to public attention was that of Hawley Harvey Crippen in 1910, where he gave forensic evidence as to the likely identity of the human remains found in Crippen's house. Spilsbury concluded that a scar on a small piece of skin from the remains pointed to Mrs Crippen as the victim.
Spilsbury later gave evidence at the trial of Herbert Rowse Armstrong, a solicitor convicted of poisoning his wife with arsenic.
The case that consolidated Spilsbury's reputation as Britain's foremost forensic pathologist was the "Brides in the Bath" murder trial of George Joseph Smith in 1915, where three women had died mysteriously in their baths, in each case the death appearing to be an accident. Spilsbury's testimony and a practical demonstration of how the victim had been drowned secured a conviction.
Spilsbury was also involved in the Brighton trunk murder cases. Although the man accused of the second murder, Tony Mancini, was acquitted, he confessed to the killing just before his own death, many years later, vindicating Spilsbury's evidence.
Spilsbury was able to work with minimal remains, such as those involved in the Alfred Rouse case (the "Blazing Car murder"), where a near-destroyed body was found in the wreck of a burnt-out car near Northampton in 1930. Although the victim was never identified, Spilsbury was able to give evidence of how he had died and facilitate Rouse's conviction.
The deaths of two of his two sons, one in 1940 and one in 1945, were a blow from which Spilsbury never truly recovered. Depression over both his finances and his declining health are believed to have been a key factor in his decision to commit suicide by gas in his laboratory at University College, London, in 1947