On this day, Dec. 27, in 1939, Edwin Sutherland introduced the concept of white-collar crime at a speech to the American Sociological Association, leading to a fundamental change in the study of crime.

Sutherland, often called the "Dean of Criminology," claimed that the conventional wisdom about crime at the time was wrong because it only explained crime of lower classes.

He was influenced by Broadway Jones, a fast-talking Chicago con man, who regaled the professor with stories of his exploits.

Sutherland is also known for developing the "differential association theory," which basically says that when a person is exposed to criminal behavior more than he is exposed to pro-social behavior, he is likely to engage in criminal behavior himself.

-- Scott McCabe