Volume 44, Issue 4 (July 1999)
William R. Maples, Forensic Historian: Four Men, Four Centuries, Four Countries
Prior to 1984, William R. Maples, Ph.D. worked primarily with Medical Examiners in the State of Florida in investigation of and testimony in criminal cases. In 1984 the Republic of Peru requested him to identify skeletal remains thought to be those of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru and the Incas in the early 16th Century. Dr. Maples made a positive identification of those remains as Pizarro, resulting in their substitution in a glass-sided coffin in the Cathedral of Lima, where other remains had been displayed as those of Pizarro for a hundred years. In addition, it was proved that the remains removed could not have been those of Pizarro.
In 1988, Dr. Maples examined the skeletal remains of Joseph Merrick (“The Elephant Man”) at Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, and made photographic studies of them for comparison with death casts of limbs and skull to ascertain depth of tissue by video-superimposition. In 1991, Dr. Maples, headed a team which removed President Zachary Taylor (1779–1842) from his tomb in Louisville, Kentucky. The purpose was to determine if he had been poisoned, as had been proposed by some at the time. Test results showed that he had not been. In 1992, Dr. Maples and a team of forensic specialists went by invitation to Ekaterinburg, Russia to study skeletal remains which the Russians had tentatively identified as the Russian Royal Family, and entourage, murdered in 1918. The American team identified them as Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, three of his children, his physician, and three of his servants.
William Ross Maples died in Gainesville, Florida, 27 February 1997.