History of Fingerprint Identification

Topics: Fingerprint, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Francis Galton Pages: 4 (1102 words) Published: October 16, 2008
The idea of using the fingerprint to identify people is not new (Ashbaugh, 1999; German, 2006). Fingerprinting’s history goes all the way back to the third century BC, when the Chinese would apply ink to their fingers and then place it on official assignments, as a way of signing it. These marks they used, however, as a signature, rather than a means of identifying someone. Centuries later, a professor in plant morphology, Marcello Malpighi, described fingerprints as having ridges, spirals and loops in his thesis De Extemo Tactus Organo in the year 1686.

As time went on, more and more research was beginning to develop in the area of fingerprints. In 1823, a professor in anatomy at the University of Bresla named John Evangelist Purkinje, published A Commentary on the Physiological Examination of the Organs of Vision and the Cutaneous System. With this, he provided nine different categories of fingerprints, which we now know as arches, tented arches, loops, whorls, and twin loops. Like the previous researchers, he did not focus on using fingerprints for identification. In the late 1800’s, Sir William Herschel, the chief magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, began imprinting fingerprints onto business contracts he made with the natives, since the natives were illiterate. Due to this new system, he became interested in fingerprints and studied them. He noted that, even after 50 years, his fingerprints did not change. He also studied criminals' fingerprints to see if they too remained the same over time, and he concluded that they did.

Dr. Henry Faulds, a British surgeon and missionary, who established the Tsujiki hospital in Tokyo, Japan, noticed fingerprints present on prehistoric pottery and decided to study fingerprints in the 1870’s. He concluded that fingerprints do not change over time and every individual has their own set of unique fingerprints. He developed a classification method for fingerprints, and also developed the traditional...
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