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Mina Minovici

Romania, after obtaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, underwent a process of ‘westernization’: Romanian scientists gained interest in Western studies of criminology, anthropometry, forensic medicine and psychiatry. Many scientists, including Mina Minovici, studied at universities in Western and Eastern Europe. Minovici completed his dissertation in medicine in Paris in the mid-1880s, and was elected member of the French Forensics Society. He grew famous for his studies on cadaverous alkaloids, putrefaction, simulated mind diseases, and criminal anthropology. Regarding the latter, he studied in Bertillon’s ateliers in after 1885. When Minovici returned to Bucharest in 1892, with his Romanian translation of Bertillon’s instruction manual, he pushed for the creation of the French methods, as part of an institute for forensic medicine – the first of its kind in the world. Minovici was appointed its first director. Foreign visitors such as Friedrich Paul registered the similarities between his measurements and the Parisian original, and his ‘very perfect photographs’ especially. When Bertillon added fingerprints to his measurement cards in 1894, for instance, to satisfy the British police, Minovici altered his description cards immediately too. On 14 June 1897, much to the surprise of the Prussian Foreign Ministry and the attendees, Minovici showed up unannounced at the Berlin Conference for the introduction of the Bertillon system throughout the German Empire, accompanied by his younger brother Ștephan. Windheim explained his Minister how their arrival was much to his surprise too and was merely based on a personal request to attend. Windheim did favour their presence nevertheless, because of Mina Minovici’s epistemic expertise. In 1898, his forensic institute was renamed into the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, in an effort to create a national network of specialized forensic institutes. It included an 8-table autopsy room, a library, an amphitheatre, practical workshops, pathological anatomy laboratories, forensics , judicial photography department, and a museum. Mina worked as professor in forensic medicine at the University of Bucharest and, together with his brother Nicolae, published compelling studies about crime, criminals, and identification methods in the early twentieth century.

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