The past and present staff, families and friends of the Serological Research Institute (SERI) experienced a great sadness in May 2012 with the passing of our founder Brian Wraxall who lost his battle with prostate cancer. As the Executive Director & Chief Forensic Serologist of SERI for 35 years, he always exhibited the highest level of scientific integrity and professionalism.
Brian started out his career as a Forensic Biologist at the Metropolitan Police Laboratory (Scotland Yard) in London under the guidance of Bryan Culliford. He contributed numerous techniques to Forensic Biology (Serology) including species cross-over, SAP/VAP, Haptoglobin, PGM subtype on agarose, P30 cross-over, P30 rocket, fetal hemoglobin, AK, EAP, PGM, GLO along with the four Multisystem Groups developed to advance U.S. Crime Lab serologists' techniques. All of these accomplishments were considered "firsts" in the field. In 1977, Brian was invited to participate in a U.C. Berkeley project called The Bloodstain Analysis System.
He was also one of the first scientists to teach formal training classes in Forensic Serology at the Met Lab in London. For the first 20 years after he relocated to the U.S. he continued teaching classes on new forensic serology techniques and either trained or oversaw the training of hundreds of Forensic Serologists.
1n 1978, when DNA was becoming more frequently accepted in the forensics field, Brian founded the Serological Research Institute. He has, over the years, advanced various DNA methods, kept his lab staff relevant in casework, and along with his Senior Forensic Serologist Gary C. Harmor, developed a reputation for SERI's laboratory as a primary leader in DNA/Forensic Serology. He also contributed towards a great many important court decisions across the country in the early days of DNA acceptance.
Many will undoubtedly remember his infectious laughter, his leadership, his high level of energy and enthusiasm for life, as fondly as they will remember his love of laboratory bench work. He was truly a person who was larger than life in many ways. Brian began a living legacy in 1978 which will be proudly carried into the future by the dedicated staff of SERI - past, present and future.
~ Waited tables at Uncle's Restaurant in Torquay, Devon, England.
~ Degree in Biology/Chemistry from King Edward VI School, Devon, England.
~ Employed as a Chemist at West Countries Brick, Co. Torquay, Devon, England.
~ Started at Metropolitan Police Laboratory, Scotland Yard, London.
~ Studied under Bryan Culliford where they developed most of the techniques for forensic blood stain analysis.
1964 - 1969:
~ Shared a flat in London with three flat-mates.
~ Met future spouse Linda, a paint/polymer chemist at the 'Met Lab'.
~ Graduated Borough Polytechnic College, London – Applied Biology.
~ Traveled from France to Spain on a Labretta scooter while on vacation with his flat-mates.
~ Married Linda Dimbleby and they honeymooned in the Canary Islands.
~ Traveled to Gibraltar, Malta, Sardinia, Ibiza, Sicily, Crete and Ireland.
~ Became an award winning amateur nature photographer.
~ Exotic butterfly and moth breeder.
~ Ran a small theatre troupe called "Raglan Players". He acted and directed.
1967 - 1971:
~ Did much of the research for Bryan Culliford's 'Examination and Typing of Bloodstains in the Crime Laboratory'.
~ Published many papers on Haptoglobin, starch gel, AK, hemoglobin, SAP/VAP, EAP, PGM, and GLO I.
~ Developed crossed immunoelectrophoresis for species origin using plastic sandwich boxes, household sponges, 6 volt car batteries in series and barbital buffer.
~ Taught a forensic serology methods course in Tallahassee, FL with Bryan Culliford.
~ Brian taught many students from the U.S. Army Crime Laboratory, serologists from other countries, Mark Stolorow at the 'Met Lab' as well as doing research.
~ Brian felt he had gone as far as he could at the Met Lab. He jumped at an invitation to work on a U.S. Federal Project at UC Berkeley called "The Bloodstain Analysis System (BAS)". Commonly known as the "group systems".
~ Researched under Dr. Benjamin Grunbaum with Mark Stolorow, Gary Harmor and Benny Del Re.
~ After much controversy the project was pulled from UC Berkeley and moved to Beckman Instruments in Anaheim, CA. The controversy developed into the "Starch Wars".
~ Taught a pilot workshop for the group system to John Wegel of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Frances Godowski of the New Jersey State Police, Terry Laber of the Minnesota Crime Laboratory, Steve Schliebe of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Laboratory and James Kearney of the FBI Laboratory with Dr. Robert Shaler observing.
~ Founded the Serological Research Institute (SERI) in Emeryville, CA with Gary Harmor.
~ Started a 34 year relationship with Peter Barnett and Dr. Edward Blake of Forensic Science Associates.
1978 - 1979:
~ Taught workshops for the transfer of the "Bloodstain Analysis System" to 95 forensic serologists at SERI with an LEAA grant. Met his future wife Joan (Kelly) Provost in the first workshop.
1980 - 2012:
~ Brian worked and consulted on a great many cases ranging from small and unknown to infamous and well known with the same level of professionalism and aplomb. He taught hundreds of forensic serologists and made a great many friends as a result. He also built up SERI's reputation into a top notch organization. All of the current and former employees have substantially increased the quality of the work product in the field of forensic serology.
Brian's many interests included nature photography, orchid cultivation and breeding, gardening, traveling, beekeeping, and Crunchie Bars! He, at one time, kept a koi pond and was a breeder of cockatiels.
He was past president of The Diablo View Orchid Society and has traveled to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Central and South America, and of course the British Isles.
For his professional accomplishments please refer to Brian's Curriculum Vitae.
After the BAS project was transferred from UC Berkeley to a lab at Beckman Instruments in Anaheim; Brian and I were working in the lab with the radio playing. When Nancy Sinatra's song "These Boots Were Made For Walking" came on Brian would sing and stomp his feet across the lab during the chorus.
In the 1960's Brian found a bloke sleeping on his couch one day when he returned. He questioned him and found out his flat-mate said it was okay for him to be there. He said he was a singer and his name was Joe Cocker. Never having heard of him, Brian threw him out anyway. Joe Cocker became one of Brian's favorite singers.
Jim Wurster and I were picking Brian up from the airport at Columbus, OH and driving him to London, OH so that he could put on a 2 week training course. I was driving and took a left onto a divided highway. Problem was I was in the left lane of oncoming traffic. Thankfully there was no traffic to speak of and Brian quickly and quietly said, "Driving on the wrong side of the carriage path Dale". He was always a joy to be with. Brian and SERI conducted many analyses and re-analyses of evidence in criminal and civil cases for both the prosecution and defense. I referred many cases to Brian for HLADQα typing back before our lab was doing DNA. He was instrumental in the successful completion of several cases in Ohio and one of my best memories was watching him testify in a murder trial. His knowledge and experience showed through on the stand.
The thing that comes to mind when I spoke with Brian about cases, was that he always referred to infidelity cases as "dirty knickers" cases. I often got a kick out of this example of typical British slang. Of course, coming from Brian with his wonderful accent, it was a perfectly natural fit. After hanging up with him one day, I immediately received a call from a client wanting me to analyze alleged evidence of infidelity. I inadvertently referred to the sample that the gentleman was speaking of as "dirty knickers" and as you can imagine, it simply was not the same coming from me with my NYC accent! Brian was a great resource of information for me and the forensic community. He was also a wonderful friend. I miss him greatly.
There was the mitochondrial case we took for the Latin TV show "Cristina' involving the missing women of Juarez, Mexico. Brian took the case for a very small amount of money (for the non-profit group that wanted to identify victims of homicide in Juarez), and because of that, I got to go to Miami to be put in a room next to a group of what I could only believe to be Brazilian drag queens, and go on Spanish TV to tell a grieving mother that the one set of remains she 'stole' from the morgue was indeed her daughter's (that part was very sad, but I hope it brought closure).
Footnote: For Brian's history in his own words, go the website www.cacnews.org, CAC News 4th Quarter 2007 Founder's Lecture, article 'A Forensic Journey'.