John Augustus Larson
John Augustus Larson was a Police Officer for Berkeley, California, United States, and famous for his invention of modern polygraph used in forensic investigations. He was the first American police officer having an academic doctorate and to use polygraph in criminal investigations. After a famed career in criminal investigation, he died of heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 72.
Larson was born in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada, of Nordic parents. His family moved to New England in his early childhood, though his parents soon divorced. He studied biology at Boston University holding down odd jobs to support himself, ranging from busboy and paperboy to stonecutter and elevator operator. In 1915, he earned a master's degree with a thesis on fingerprint identification. This work inspired his interest in forensic science and led him to the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained a Ph.D. in physiology in 1920.
Having done moonlighting work as a student for the Berkeley Police Department, he joined the force in 1920. His great insight was to integrate a test for blood pressure, developed by William Moulton Marston, with measurements for pulse, respiration and skin conductivity, to make a comprehensive lie detection tool. He was also highly encouraged by his police chief August Vollmer.