Roland Menzel, Inventor of Laser Fingerprint Technology and TTU Horn Professor, Dies at 62

Date: Feb. 3, 2006
CONTACT: John Davis,

LUBBOCK, Texas – Dr. E. Roland Menzel, inventor of laser fingerprint technology and Horn professor of physics at Texas Tech University, passed away Friday due to an illness.

He was 62.

Menzel was known best for creating laser fingerprint technology in the mid- to late-1970s while a member of the scientific staff for Xerox Research Center of Canada in Toronto. While working on color copier technology, Menzel discovered how fingerprints react to lasers.

His laser fingerprint discovery was labeled one of the Milestones of Canadian Chemistry in the 20th Century by the Chemical Institute of Canada.

Lynn Hatfield, chairman of TTU’s Department of Physics, says he has lost a beloved friend and an important member of his faculty.

“He was a very colorful character,” Hatfield says. “And, he was an outstanding researcher. He gave very good and interesting talks about his work. During his time at Xerox, he realized you could see fingerprints by shining a laser on them. The laser light excites fingerprint material and causes it to give off light.”

Following that discovery, Menzel came to Texas Tech University in 1979.

He created The Center for Forensic Studies at TTU in 1982 with the aim of promoting innovation in physical evidence examination.

The center’s mission is to research new methods of evidence examination, hold workshops for law enforcement personnel to expose them to new technologies and conduct case examinations for law enforcement agencies. In 2003, the center expanded to include an interdisciplinary forensic science minor program.

As well as giving workshops to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service, Menzel traveled to China, Israel, Guam and Saudi Arabia to teach law enforcement officials how to use emerging technology to fight crime.

He became a P.W. Horn professor in 1997, which is the highest honor a Texas Tech University Professor can achieve.

Physics professor K. Kelvin Cheng says he was recruited by Menzel 16 years ago to build the department’s biophysics research.

“Menzel and I developed a lot of common research interests in physics,” the biophysicist says. “We published a paper in Forensic Science International last year on using a laser to understand the chemical reactions that happen when fingerprints develop. He was a very, very smart man. We will miss him very much.”

For a photo of Menzel, visit

CONTACT: Lynn Hatfield, chairman of the Department of Physics, 742-3767,; K. Kelvin Cheng, professor of physics, 742-2992,