Exhibit - Ralph Turner
Ralph Turner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 18, 1917. In 1939, he graduated with a degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. Following his graduation, Turner married Arnella Klug Turner and began working as a Laboratory Supervisor at the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. During this time Turner received additional training at Boston University Medical School.
In 1947, Turner began teaching in the Michigan State University Police Administration Department, focusing on education and research in forensic science, as well as the causes and effects of alcohol abuse. While a professor at Michigan State, he continued his own education at the Yale Center for Alcohol Studies in 1955 and the University of Southern California, where he earned his M.S. in Police Administration in 1957.
Throughout his career, Ralph Turner was well known for his numerous contributions to both the university and the academic community. At MSU, he was involved with several overseas programs, predominantly in Asia. In 1959, Turner traveled to Vietnam to work on the Vietnam Project as an advisor to Police and Security Services. Following his work in Vietnam, Turner was honored as a Fulbright scholar in 1963 and spent a year at the Central Police College in Taipei, Taiwan as a Fulbright lecturer. With this international experience, Turner continued his work on behalf of Michigan State University by overseeing research programs and teaching courses all over the world. This includes countries such as Guam, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, London, and Germany. Additionally, Turner conducted lectures and seminars to overseas visitors hosted by Michigan State University.
Turner was also a pioneer in research on the effects and abuse of alcohol and he performed many studies on the topic. He worked to increase academic awareness and education by teaching a course at MSU titled, “Alcohol - A Social Dilemma.”
Outside the University, Turner was involved with several journals, committees, and associations regarding the research and advancement of forensic science and alcohol studies. His expertise in the field of alcohol studies led to his selection as an advisor on the Drunkenness Taskforce for President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in 1965. In addition, he was an active member of the National Safety Council Committee on Alcohol and Drugs, as well as the National Council on Alcoholism.
Most notably, he was a founding member of the American Academy of Forensic Science. Due to his extensive knowledge in the field of forensics, Turner was selected in 1975 to review the assassination case of Robert F. Kennedy and served as an expert in firearms identification and ballistics. In 1978 Ralph Turner was recognized with the Bruce Smith Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice to award his lifetime achievements and leadership in the field of forensic science.
Turner remained a professor at Michigan State University for 32 years before retiring in 1979. However, he continued to act as an advisor to the Michigan State University Criminal Justice Department for many years after.
Ralph Turner passed away in 1994.
Exhibit created by Jessica Russell, May 2011
University Archives and Historical Collections