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Pierre Margot Swiss identified as winner of US forensic award

Forensic forefather: Pierre Margot shakes hands in Lausanne with someone who had to solve crimes without the help of the Polilight, during a pilgrimage of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London to Switzerland in 2005


Pierre Margot, director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Lausanne, has become the first non-American to be awarded the prestigious John A Dondero Memorial Award for his contributions to forensic identification. 

Pierre Margot, 64, is one of the leading fingerprint experts in the world and is known for helping to invent the first forensic light source, Polilight, for the detection of fingerprints, bodily fluids and other evidence at crime scenes. 

“I was working in Australia at the time,” Margot told Le Matin newspaper on Saturday. “They’ve even named a street after the Polilight! It was the police who funded the project, which, I stress, was a team effort.” 

The John A Dondero Memorial Award is awarded annually by the International Association for Identificationexternal link, the largest forensic organisation in the world, to members who have made “the most significant and valuable contribution in the area of identification and allied sciences”. The inaugural recipient in 1959 was J Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI. 

“It’s recognition that our work still counts today, that we are a reference point,” Margot said. “I’m approaching the end of my career, so it doesn’t change anything for me. But this award is important for my colleagues and the students.” 

Over the years, Margot has won many awards and been involved in several international issues, including the investigation of the Bloody Sunday massacre and Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland and the sinking of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior by the French government in 1985.

Pierre Margot

Pierre Margot was born in Delémont, canton Jura, in 1950 and studied at Lausanne University, receiving a degree in forensics and criminology.

He did a PhD at Strathclyde University in Scotland on poisonous and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

After studying in the US and Australia, in 1986 he became director of the School of Criminal Justice at Lausanne University.

Along with his team he has developed new investigation methods, particularly in the area of fingerprints.

In 2011, he received the prestigious Douglas M Lucas medal from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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