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Guru_Guy, Internet Researcher
Category: General
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who invented the fingerprint

Customer Question

who was the first person to invent the fingerprint
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  Guru_Guy replied 9 years ago.

Fingerprints are a naturally occurring phenomenon. They were not invented by anyone. However, the ability to use fingerprints for identification has had contributions by the following people over a period of several centuries:

In 1686, Marcello Malpighi, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, noted in his treatise, ridges, spirals and loops in fingerprints. He made no mention of their value as a tool for individual identification. A layer of skin was named after him; "Malpighi" layer.

In 1823, John Evangelist Purkinje, a professor of anatomy at the University of Breslau, published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns. However, he also did not discuss the use of of fingerprints for personal identification.

The real breakthough came in 1858 when when Sir William Herschel, the British Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, first used fingerprints on native contracts.

Herschel had Rajyadhar Konai, a local businessman, impress his hand print on a contract. The idea was merely "... to frighten [him] out of all thought of repudiating his signature." Herschel made a habit of requiring palm prints, later reducing this to the prints of the right Index and Middle fingers on every contract made with the locals.

As his fingerprint collection grew, Herschel noted that the inked impressions could prove identity. While his experience with fingerprinting was admittedly limited, Sir Herschel's private conviction that all fingerprints were unique to the individual, as well as permanent throughout that individual's life, inspired him to expand their use.

During the 1870's, Dr. Henry Faulds, the British Surgeon-Superintendent of Tsukiji Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, took up the study of "skin-furrows" after noticing finger marks on specimens of "prehistoric" pottery. Dr. Faulds not only recognized the importance of fingerprints as a means of identification, but devised a method of classification as well.

In 1880, Dr. Faulds published an article in the Scientific Journal, "Nature". He discussed fingerprints as a means of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints.

Sir Francis Galton, a British anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin, began his observations of fingerprints as a means of identification in the 1880's. In 1892, Galton published his book, "Fingerprints", establishing the individuality and permanence of fingerprints. The book included the first classification system for fingerprints.

According to his calculations, the odds of two individual fingerprints being the same were 1 in 64 billion. Galton identified the characteristics by which fingerprints can be identified. These same characteristics (minutia) are basically still in use today, and are often called as Galton's Details.

The same year Galton published his book, Juan Vucetich of Argentina made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He was able to identify a woman who murdered her two sons and cut her own throat in an attempt to place blame on another. Her bloody print was left on a door post, proving her identity as the murderer.

In 1900, The UK Home Secretary Office conducted an inquiry into "Identification of Criminals by Measurement and Fingerprints." Edward Richard Henry (later Sir E.R. Henry) appeared before the inquiry committee to explain the system published in his recent book "The Classification and Use of Fingerprints." The committee recommended adoption of fingerprinting as a replacement for identifying suspected criminals.

In July 1901 The Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard (London Metropolitan Police) was created using the Henry System of classification.

I hope this helps!

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