The Henry Classification System is a long-standing method by which fingerprints are sorted by physiological characteristics. Developed by Sir Edward Henry in the late 1800s for criminal investigations in British India, it was the basis of modern day AFIS classification methods up until the1990s. In recent years, the Henry Classification System has generally been replaced by ridge flow classification approaches.
Sir William Herschel found that fingerprints remain unchanged over time. He also found that each individual’s fingerprints are unique to that person. He instituted a system by which fingerprints were used to sign documents, identification, and a means to authenticate transactions. However, a system in which records of individuals would be filed and searched was not yet invented.
“Dr. Henry Faulds was the first European to publish the notion of scientific use of fingerprints in the identification of criminals. In 1892, Sir Francis Galton published his highly influential book, Finger Prints in which he described his classification system that include three main fingerprint patterns - loops, whorls and arches.” (International Biometric Group, 2003). In 1896 Sir Edward Henry, then the Inspector General of the Bengal Police in India, intrigued by the use of fingerprints for identification of criminals contacted Sir Galton. The two men corresponded regularly and in 1896, Sir Henry ordered the collection of prisoner’s fingerprints along with their anthropometric measurements. By gathering both pieces of information he expanded on Sir Galton’s classification system. A commission was later established to compare Anthropometry to the Henry Classification System to determine which system of identification was better. The commission found that using fingerprints was the better approach.
The Henry Classification System allows for logical categorization of ten-print fingerprint records into primary groupings based on fingerprint pattern types. This system...
References: Carlton, Dennis. International Biometric Group internal resources.
Harling Michael (1996). Origins of the New York State Bureau of Identification.
International Biometric Group (2003): Henry Classification System.
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