What are fingerprints?
If you have looked closely at your hands, you will notice very fine lines closely placed that are either arched, whorled or in loops. All of your fingers will have a definite pattern. These are unique and only you in this entire world will own this set of fingerprints. Infact it’s one of the most foolproof ways to identify a person, that it’s even used in this age of biometric identification.
History of fingerprints
Sir William Herschel, a British Civil Servant, stationed in India in 1858, collected handprints from Indians to prevent forgeries and he discovered that each print was different.
A Scottish physician, Dr. Henry Faulds went to Japan in 1873, as a medical missionary. There he established the Tuskiji Hospital and was also the surgeon superintendent. On his stay there, he got involved in a nearby archaeological site. It was at the archaeological dig, that he observed imprints on clay pottery shards and he became interested in the science of human fingerprints.
He further observed through various experiments that the finger prints grew back the same each time, if a person accidentally lost the skin on his fingerprints.
British Scientist, Sir Francis Galton is also credited with this discovery, although it looks as if his work was based on Faulds’ research.
When were fingerprints first used to solve crimes?
It wasn’t until 1896 that a man named Edward Henry developed a classification system for identification of fingerprints. Henry divided fingerprint patterns up into five different sections. They were: Plain Arches, Tented Arches, Ulnar Loops, Radial Loops, and Whorls.
He coded these patterns and then devised a method for fingerprint mapping. His method made the identification and retrieval of fingerprint data base much easier. This system was adopted by the police of America and Europe. But it was FBI in 1920s that utilised the system and created an archive of fingerprints.