Bertillionage to Fingerprinting

Topics: Fingerprint, Prison, United States Pages: 1 (252 words) Published: July 27, 2008
Alphonse Bertillion developed a method of recording physical features of a person in such a way that the record would be unique to that person. It consisted of taking measurements of various parts of the body, such as the head, shoulders, fingers, and skull. This method was referred to as Bertillionage, after its creator. Bertillion developed a set of precise measuring instruments to be used with his method. The Bertillionage system became very popular throughout Europe and the United States. It became widely used in U.S. prisons, which needed a way to track the prisoners. The Bertillion system was plagued by problems of reproducibility (2 people could have the exact same measurements therefore one person could be charged with the wrong doings of multiple people. In 1903 a prisoner named William West was admitted to the prison to serve a sentence. When he was measured using the Bertillion system, it was found that a man with the name William West with virtually the same set of measurements was already at the prison! This discredited the Bertillionage and opened the door for the study of fingerprints. Bertillion used fingerprints in his system but didn’t have a good way to organize them for mass searches. Dr. Juan Vucetich conceived of a method of fingerprint classification in 1894 that provided for 1,048,576 primary classifications of fingerprints. His work was largely unheard of in Europe until Sir Edward Henry devised a fingerprint classification system, still used today to categorize sets of fingerprints and store them for easy retrieval.
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