Some grandmothers bake cookies. Others pinch your cheeks and ask when you're going to start pumping out those grandkids. Frances Glessner Lee was a grandmother who spent most of her time creating obsessively detailed dioramas that portrayed gruesome crime scenes and real life deaths. She also happened to be a wealthy heiress -- you know, back when the term heiress actually meant something and didn't involve sex tapes or tea cup dog breeds -- who founded Harvard's Department of Legal Medicine in 1936. It was there that she trained investigators in the forensic pathology program with her Nutshell Studies -- creating dollhouses viewable from every angle, that depicted crime scene details based on actual case studies. Lee used unexplained cases as the model for her artistic and educational creations, focusing on accidents, murders and suicides in order to teach detectives how to read evidence.
Keep in mind this was during a period in America's history when a coroner did not have to be medically trained, so Lee's invention was pretty revolutionary for the time. The 18 dioramas she created throughout the 30's and 40's resemble a scene from a horror film. And for those of you who thought that CSI episode about the Miniature Killer meant the show's writers had actually come up with an original idea -- think again. It's pretty clear that Glessner's work has influenced many far and wide.