digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















John A. Larson
John Larson in 1921.jpg
John Larson in 1921
Born 11 December 1892 (1892-12-11)
Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died 1 October 1965 (1965-11)
Residence Berkeley, California
Citizenship U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Medicine
Education Boston University
M.Sc. 1915 University of California, Berkeley
Ph.D. 1920 (Physiology)
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Known for Criminology, Polygraphy

John Augustus Larson was a Police Officer for Berkeley, California, United States, and famous for his invention of modern polygraph used in forensic investigations.[1] He was the first American police officer having an academic doctorate and to use polygraph in criminal investigations.[2][3] After a famed career in criminal investigation, he died of heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 72.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

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.[5]

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.

At the time of the invention of the polygraph, aged 21, Larson was a medical student at the University of California, Berkeley. He later entered the field of forensic psychiatry.

Invention of polygraph[edit]

The instrument, with its diverse collection of physiological indices, became known as the polygraph, which Larson then fully developed for forensic use in 1921, and applied it in police investigations at the Berkeley Police Department.[6][7] His instrument provided continuous readings of blood pressure, rather than discontinuous readings of the sort found in Marston's device. The first practical use was in the summer of 1921. The San Francisco Call and Post arranged for Larson to use the apparatus to test William Hightower, accused of murdering a priest in San Francisco. The newspaper reported Larson’s findings the following morning: Hightower was pronounced guilty by impartial science. The graphic results of the interrogation were printed large across the page, with arrows marking each presumed lie. Vollmer exalted the machine to the press, which renamed it the 'lie detector.' However, Larson himself used to refer to his apparatus as a 'cardio-pneumo psychogram,' which basically consisted of a modification of an Erlanger Sphygmomanometer.[8]


Larson married Margaret Taylor, the freshman victim of the College Hall case and the first person he ever interrogated on the lie detector. Over the next fifteen years, he collected hundreds of files on successful criminal cases where his polygraph solved murders, robberies, thefts and sex crimes. His instrument was nicknamed 'Sphyggy' by the press who covered Larson’s crime solving escapades in the 1920s and 30's; 'Sphyggy' because they couldn’t pronounce 'Sphygmomanometer.' [9] The polygraph is considered officially one of the greatest inventions of all time. It is included in the Encyclopædia Britannica Almanac 2003's list of 325 greatest inventions.[10] This first polygraph instrument of Larson is now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. It first appeared in action in a moving picture in 1926 in the silent police serial ‘’Officer 444’’.


  • The cardio-pneumo-psychogram in deception. Phillips Bros., Print (1924)
  • Single fingerprint system, (The Berkeley police monograph series). D. Appleton (1924)
  • The use of the polygraph in the study of deception at the Institute of Juvenile Research, Chicago. Dept. of Public Welfare (1927)
  • Lying and its detection: A study of deception and deception tests (Behavior research fund. Monographs). The University of Chicago press (1932)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bellis, M. Police Technology and Forensic Science: History of the Lie Detector or Polygraph Machine.About.com Inventors.
  2. ^ Carlsen E (2010). Truth in the machine. California Magazine, Cal Alumni Association, Berkeley
  3. ^ Gordon, N. J. (2008). Today's Instruments for Truth Testing. The Police Chief, vol. 75, no. 9.
  4. ^ Milestones on Time magazine
  5. ^ Alder, K (2007). The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession. Free Press, Simon and Schuster, Inc, pp. 23-25. ISBN 0-7432-5988-2
  6. ^ Matté, J A (1996). Forensic psychophysiology using the polygraph: scientific truth verification, lie detection. J.A.M. Publications, p. 22. ISBN 0-9655794-0-9
  7. ^ Segrave, K (2004). Lie detectors: a social history. McFarland, pp. 18-19. ISBN 0-7864-1618-1
  8. ^ The Polygraph Museum John Larson's Breadboard Polygraph
  9. ^ John Larson’s California
  10. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Augustus_Larson — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
133 videos foundNext > 

Lie Detector: "Use of the Polygraph in Investigations" 1966 US Army Training Film

more at http://quickfound.net/links/military_news_and_links.html "SUSPECTS AND WITNESSES - PART IV - USE OF THE POLYGRAPH IN INVESTIGATIONS ...

MGTOW Australia - The Rabbit Hole

Background Music by IceBreaker International, name of track is called: Port of Halifax MGTOW Australia-How deep does the rabbit hole go? Most Men that are ...

Lie Detector: "Use of the Polygraph in Investigations" pt2-2 1966 US Army Training Film

more at http://quickfound.net/links/military_news_and_links.html NEW VERSION in one piece instead of multiple parts: ...

Lie Detector: "Use of the Polygraph in Investigations" pt1-2 1966 US Army Training Film

more at http://quickfound.net/links/military_news_and_links.html NEW VERSION in one piece instead of multiple parts: ...

Jens Larsen - John Engels - Hans Voogt: Half Nelson Gouda '11 - Epiphone Sheraton w/ Bare knuckle

Half Nelson (M. Davis) http://www.jenslarsen.nl/ Jens Larsen - Guitar John Engels - Drums Hans Voogt - Bass Live@Houtmans concerten, Gouda(NL) 2011 ...

The Fault in Our Stars monologue | Augustus' Letter

Hey guys! I thought I'd do a monologue from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. (I own nothing in this video aside from myself. And my clothes. And hair.

Trainwreck - 27 augustus in de bioscoop

Trainwreck - 27 augustus in de bioscoop Succesvol filmmaker Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This is 40) regisseert TRAINWRECK van ...


Stompin At The Savoy - Johan Hansen-Larson.

Trainwreck - 27 augustus in de bioscoop

27 augustus in de bioscoop. Succesvol filmmaker Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This is 40) regisseert TRAINWRECK van Universal ...

Julia reads TFiOS: Chapter 1 Part 2

133 videos foundNext > 

18 news items


Wed, 06 May 2015 14:22:30 -0700

A Halifax student has used lies and deception to earn herself a spot in a high-profile thesis competition in Montreal. But Nicole Adams-Quackenbush won't be telling any fibs. She's earning her master's of applied science at Saint Mary's University by ...

Toronto Sun

Toronto Sun
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 12:51:23 -0700

... where I'll come to an understanding of the subject's involvement, and often times that can result in a confession to their culpability.” The polygraph was invented in 1921 by John Augustus Larson, a medical student at the University of California ...


Thu, 09 Oct 2014 05:33:59 -0700

The lie detector, or polygraph, has been used in many investigations since its initial creation in 1921 by John Augustus Larson, a medical student at the University of California at Berkeley and police officer of the Berkeley Police Department. Now, it ...
Pacifica Tribune
Wed, 13 Mar 2013 08:33:22 -0700

Born in Nova Scotia in 1892, John Augustus Larson became interested in forensic science and went on to receive his Ph.D. in physiology at the University of California, Berkeley around 1919. That same year he also became a Berkeley police officer. A ...

Comic Book Resources

Comic Book Resources
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 12:04:41 -0700

In the 1920s, William Moulton Marston, better known as the man who would created Wonder Woman, developed a systolic blood pressure test, which went on to become a vital component of the modern polygraph invented by John Augustus Larson in ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Thu, 30 Aug 2012 02:26:48 -0700

The most dangerous sex offenders will be forced to take regular lie detector tests after leaving jail in a bid to prevent fresh attacks. After a successful trial was carried out in the Midlands, ministers are now set to introduce compulsory lie ...

Enter Stage Right

Enter Stage Right
Sun, 15 Jul 2007 21:03:45 -0700

... between its two most well-known historical practitioners and the main protagonists in The Lie Detectors: John Augustus Larson, a member of Vollmer's police department at Berkeley and the first police officer in the country with a Ph.D., and ...
दैनिक भास्कर
Wed, 19 Aug 2015 12:13:27 -0700

पॉलीग्राफ मशीन का इन्वेंशन 1921 में जॉन अगस्तस लार्सन (John Augustus Larson) ने किया था। जॉन ने यूनिवर्सिटी ऑफ कैलिफोर्निया से मेडिकल की पढ़ाई की थी और वे कैलिफोर्निया के बर्कले पुलिस ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight