An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. – Proverbs 31:10-13
The Grim Sleeper, a 1980s serial killer resurfaced in Los Angeles and killed again in 2007. In 2015 a home invasion in the neighborhood of the Vice President of the United States ended in a quadruple homicide. The killers in both of these crimes were caught thanks to suspects generated from DNA evidence left on partially eaten pizzas. The 1950s advertisement below states “everything under the sun gets done with Q-tips® .” This includes solving murders.
This post is not about pizza. Nor is it particularly about DNA. It is however about one of the most commonly used tools in a CSI’s Utility Belt – the DNA swab.
Who do CSI’s all over the world owe a thank you to? It seems they owe thanks to the creative wife of a Polish-American immigrant, Leo Gerstenzang. It is believed in 1923 Leo saw his wife Ziuta wrap some cotton around the tip of a toothpick to use as a cleaning tool. Inspired by this prototype Leo marketed cotton tipped applicators named “Baby Gays” which later evolved into Q-Tips. Sterile cotton swabs became the perfect tool for collecting DNA samples from floors, walls, ceilings, clothing, weapons, and the mouths of suspects.
DNA swabs come in many varieties but from the same concept, absorbent clean fibers wrapped around the tip of a stick. The DNA swab (Puritan Cap-Shure) in the photograph below comes with its own protective case. Just swab, pull, close the cap, and you have a sealed DNA swab ready for drying and analysis.
That bit of cotton on the end of a toothpick has affected millions of lives and criminal investigations. Because of her Leo built an empire and “had no lack of gain.” Also because of her a very valuable tool in the CSI’s Utility Belt was created. Thank you Ziuta for your invention!
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