U.S. Marshals Service for Students
Central Pocket Loop
What Type of Fingerprints do you
writing of a hand with ridge patterns was discovered in Nova Scotia. In
ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business
transactions. In ancient China, thumb prints were found on clay seals.
In 14th century
Persia, various official government papers had fingerprints (impressions),
and one government official, a doctor, observed that no two fingerprints
were exactly alike.
Malpighi - 1686
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, which is approximately 1.8mm thick.
Evangelist Purkinji - 1823
In 1823, John
Evangelist Purkinji, a professor of anatomy at the University of
Breslau, published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint
patterns, but he too made no mention of the value of fingerprints for
William Hershel - 1856
The English first
began using fingerprints in July of 1858, when Sir William Herschel,
Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district
in Jungipoor, India, first used fingerprints on native contracts. On a
whim, and with no thought toward personal identification,
Herschel had Rajyadhar Konai, a local businessman, impress his hand
print on the back of a contract.
The idea was merely
". . . to frighten [him] out of all thought of repudiating his
signature." The native was suitably impressed,
and Herschel made a habit of requiring palm prints--and later, simply
the prints of the right Index and Middle fingers--on
every contract made with the locals. Personal contact with the document,
they believed, made the contract more
binding than if they simply signed it. Thus, the first wide-scale,
modern-day use of fingerprints was predicated, not
upon scientific evidence, but upon superstitious beliefs.
As his fingerprint
collection grew, however, Herschel began to note that the inked
impressions could, indeed, prove or disprove
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
Henry Faulds - 1880
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. A learned and industrious man,
Dr. Faulds not only recognized the importance of fingerprints as a means
of identification, but devised a method of
classification as well.
In 1880, Faulds
forwarded an explanation of his classification system and a sample of
the forms he had designed for recording
inked impressions, to Sir Charles Darwin. Darwin, in advanced age and
ill health, informed Dr. Faulds that he could
be of no assistance to him, but promised to pass the materials on to his
cousin, Francis Galton.
Also in 1880, Dr.
Faulds published an article in the Scientific Journal, "Nautre"
(nature). He discussed fingerprints as a means
of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for
obtaining such fingerprints. He is also credited
with the first fingerprint identification of a greasy fingerprint left
on an alcohol bottle.
Thompson - 1882
In 1882, Gilbert
Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, used his own
fingerprints on a document to prevent
forgery. This is the first known use of fingerprints in the United
Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) - 1883
In Mark Twain's
book, "Life on the Mississippi", a murderer was identified by
the use of fingerprint identification. In a later
book by Mark Twain, "Pudd'n Head Wilson", there was a dramatic
court trial on fingerprint identification. A more recent
movie was made from this book.
Francis Galton - 1888
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, he published his book,
"Fingerprints", establishing the individuality and permanence
of fingerprints. The book included the first classification system for
interest in fingerprints was as an aid in determining heredity and
racial background. While he soon discovered
that fingerprints offered no firm clues to an individual's intelligence
or genetic history, he was able to scientifically
prove what Herschel and Faulds already suspected: that fingerprints do
not change over the course of an
individual's lifetime, and that no two fingerprints are exactly the
same. According to his calculations, the odds of two
individual fingerprints being the same were 1 in 64 billion.
the characteristics by which fingerprints can be identified. These same
characteristics (minutia) are basically
still in use today, and are often referred to as Galton's Details.
In 1891, Juan Vucetich, an Argentine Police Official, began the first fingerprint
files based on Galton pattern types. At first,
Vucetich included the Bertillon System with the files. (see Bertillon
below) In 1892, Juan Vucetich
made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He was able to
identify a woman by the name of Rojas,
who had 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.
1901 Introduction of
fingerprints for criminal identification in England and Wales, using
Galton's observations and revised by Sir
Edward Richard Henry. Thus began the Henry Classification System, used
even today in all English speaking countries.
1902 First systematic use
of fingerprints in the U.S. by the New York Civil Service Commission for
testing. Dr. Henry P. DeForrest
pioneers U.S. fingerprinting.
1903 The New York State
Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in U.S. for
1904 The use of
fingerprints began in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas, and
the St. Louis Police Department. They
were assisted by a Sergeant from Scotland Yard who had been on duty at
the St. Louis Exposition guarding the British
1905 1905 saw the use of
fingerprints for the U.S. Army. Two years later the U.S. Navy started,
and was joined the next year
by the Marine Corp. During the next 25 years more and more law
enforcement agencies join in the use of fingerprints
as a means of personal identification. Many of these agencies began
sending copies of their fingerprint cards
to the National Bureau of Criminal Identification, which was established
by the International Association of Police Chiefs.
1918 It was in 1918 when
Edmond Locard wrote that if 12 points (Galton's Details) were the same
between two fingerprints, it
would suffice as a positive identification. This is where the often
quoted (12 points) originated. Be aware
though, there is "NO" required number of points necessary for
an identification. Some countries have set their own
standards which do include a minimum number of points, but not in the
1924 In 1924, an act of
congress established the Identification Division of the F.B.I.. The
National Bureau and Leavenworth consolidated
to form the nucleus of the F.B.I. fingerprint files.
1946 By 1946, the F.B.I.
had processed 100 million fingerprint cards in manually maintained
files; and by 1971, 200 million cards. With the
introduction of AFIS technology, the files were split into computerized
criminal files and manually maintained civil
files. Many of the manual files were duplicates though, the records
actually represented somewhere in the neighborhood
of 25 to 30 million criminals, and an unknown number of individuals in
the civil files.
1999 By 1999, the FBI had
planned to stop using paper fingerprint cards (at least for the newly
arriving civil fingerprints) inside
their new Integrated AFIS (IAFIS) site at Clarksburg, WV. IAFIS will
initially have individual computerized fingerprint
records for approximately 33 million criminals. Old paper fingerprint
cards for the civil files are still manually maintained
in a warehouse facility (rented shopping center space) in Fairmont, WV.
Since the Gulf War, most military fingerprint
enlistment cards received have been filed only alphabetically by name.
The FBI hopes to someday classify and
file these cards so they can be of value for unknown casualty (or
amnesiac) identification (when no passenger/victim
list from a flight, etc., is known).
2002 Currently now in
2002, paper fingerprint cards are still in use and being processed for
all identification purposes.
Fingerprints offer an
infallible means of personal identification. That is the essential
explanation for their having supplanted
other methods of establishing the identities of criminals reluctant to
admit previous arrests. Other personal characteristics
change - fingerprints do not.
civilizations, branding and even maiming were used to mark the criminal
for what he was. The thief was deprived
of the hand which committed the thievery. The Romans employed the tattoo
needle to identify and prevent desertion
of mercenary soldiers.
More recently, law
enforcement officers with extraordinary visual memories, so-called
"camera eyes," identified old offenders
by sight. Photography lessened the burden on memory but was not the answer
to the criminal identification problem.
Personal appearances change.
Around 1870 a French
anthropologist devised a system to measure and record the dimensions of
certain bony parts of the body.
These measurements were reduced to a formula which, theoretically, would
apply only to one person and would
not change during his/her adult life.
This Bertillon System,
named after its inventor, Alphonse Bertillon, was generally accepted for
thirty years. But it never recovered
from the events of 1903, when a man named Will West was sentenced to the
U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth,
Kansas. You see, there was already a prisoner at the penitentiary at the
time, whose Bertillon measurements
were nearly exact, and his name was William West.
Upon an investigation,
there were indeed two men. They looked exactly alike, but were allegedly
not related. Their names were
Will and William West, respectively. Their Bertillon measurements were
close enough to identify them as the
same person. However, a fingerprint comparison quickly and correctly
identified them as two different people. The West
men were apparently identical twin brothers per indications in later
discovered prison records citing correspondence
from the same immediate family relatives.