Jack was born September 1, 1918 in Anaheim, California – at a time when it was likely easier to get away with murder. The technologies that collectively would come to be known as CSI (crime scene investigation) were largely undeveloped. Crime laboratories as such, didn’t exist in the United States until 1924.
As this new scientific field burgeoned, Jack cultivated his love for science at Fullerton Union High School. After graduating in 1936 he enrolled at Fullerton Junior College (now Fullerton College), in the forensic science program. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Jack transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. He received his degree in criminology in 1947, the second year of the major’s existence there. The day he graduated, he married the love of his life, Evelyn MacDonald.
In 1947, Orange County did not have a crime laboratory, and the effect of that absence was exemplified by the case of Walter and Beulah Overell. The couple was killed in an explosion on board their yacht moored in Newport Harbor. The victims’ daughter and her boyfriend were charged with the murders, but were acquitted by a jury due to lack of evidence. Though the case could not be tried again, Jack undertook his own investigation to find the truth. His efforts produced a receipt from the business where the Overell’s daughter had purchased dynamite. He also discovered that a wire used to detonate the explosives, was cut from the boyfriend’s car. To prevent future losses of such cases, Sheriff James Musick decided that Orange County needed its own crime lab. And who better to start such a lab than the man who opened his eyes to this new crime-fighting model?
In 1948 Jack started the Orange County’s Crime Lab in a converted women’s restroom in the county jail. For the first 10 years he worked alone establishing methods for analyzing drugs and narcotics, and for typing blood found at crime scenes. Jack also created groundbreaking methods using the gas chromatograph and ultraviolet spectrophotometer (seen in the pictures above) for identifying samples of blood, breath and urine. His research laid the groundwork for development of the Breathalyzer, among other innovations. Jack worked tirelessly on Orange County’s highest profile cases, utilizing his methods to provide unbiased evidence and testimony in the courtroom. His innovative and meticulous work earned the Orange County Sheriff’s Crime Lab full accreditation even before the F.B.I. Crime Lab gained its own accreditation. Jack’s attention to detail and devotion to the truth, whether it exonerated or incriminated, were what made him the best at what he did. Despite advances and changes on multiple fronts in CSI, many of his discoveries provide the foundations for today’s methods for analytical toxicology and chemical testing. The Orange County Sheriff’s Crime Lab has grown from its modest beginning in a tiny, converted bathroom, with a staff of one; to a 120,000 square-foot facility with a staff of one hundred, and state of the art crime-solving equipment.
In 1954, Jack, with eleven colleagues, founded the California Association of Criminalists, and was appointed a Fellow to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. In the early 1970s, Jack was elected president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. During his tenure, he established the Standards for Laboratory Accreditation, dramatically improving the quality of crime labs in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Following his retirement from the Sheriff’s Department, Jack took the reins as Director of Graduate Programs in Criminalistics at California State University Los Angeles. Until his retirement in 1989, he counseled, influenced and trained scores of today’s criminalists.
Jack was a true Renaissance man. In addition to being a pioneering and accomplished forensic scientist, he studied physics, art, biology, music, and chemistry in order to satisfy his curiosity of the world around him. Whenever any of his eight children had a question about how something worked, he challenged them to discover it for themselves, as he had always done.
Jack died in September 2003, exactly one week after celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday. In an attempt to honor his passion for knowledge and discovery, and for engendering the same in others, his family established a scholarship at his high school alma mater. The W. Jack Cadman Scholarship at Fullerton Union High School is awarded annually to a graduating senior who has chosen a career in science, and who shares a similar passion, vision and character as the remarkable man whose name it bears.
For more information on the W. Jack Cadman Award, please see the 'scholarship' page
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