is no clear date at which fingerprinting was first used. However,
significant modern dates documenting the use of fingerprints for positive identification
are as follows:
ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions.
ancient China, thumb prints were found on clay seals.
14th century Persia, various official government papers had fingerprints (impressions),
and one government official, a doctor, observed that no two fingerprints were
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.
Jan Evangelista Purkyne, a professor of anatomy at the University of Breslau,
published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns, but he did not mention
the use of fingerprints to identify persons.
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 a
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 their use.
Dr Henry Faulds published his first paper on the subject in the scientific journal
Nature in 1880. Returning to the UK in 1886, he offered the concept to the
Metropolitan Police in London but it was dismissed.
In 1882, Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, used his
own thumb print on a document to prevent forgery. This was a receipt issued by
Gilbert Thompson to "Lying Bob" in the amount of 75 dollars and is the
first known use of fingerprints in the United States.
in 1882, Alphonse Bertillon, a Clerk in the Prefecture of Police of at Paris,
France, devised a system of classification, known as Anthropometry or the Bertillon
System, using measurements of parts of the body. Bertillon's system included measurements
such as head length, head width, length of the middle finger, length of the left
foot; and length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.
Sir Francis Galton published a detailed statistical model of fingerprint analysis
and identification and encouraged its use in forensic science in his book Finger
Prints. Galton identified 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 1892, Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police officer who had been studying Galton
pattern types for a year, made the first criminal fingerprint identification.
He successfully proved Francisca Rojas guilty of murder after showing that the
bloody fingerprint found at the crime scene was hers, and could only be hers.
World's first Fingerprint Bureau opens in Calcutta (Kolkata), India after the
Council of the Governor General approved a committee report (on 12 June 1897)
that fingerprints should be used for classification of criminal records. Working
in the Calcutta Anthropometric Bureau (before it became the Fingerprint Bureau)
were Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose. Haque and Bose are the Indian fingerprint
experts credited with primary development of the fingerprint classification system
eventually named after their supervisor, Sir Edward Richard Henry.
The first United Kingdom Fingerprint Bureau was founded in Scotland Yard. The
Henry Classification System, devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry with the help
of Haque and Bose, was accepted in England and Wales.
First systematic use of fingerprints in the US by the New York Civil Service Commission
for testing. Dr. Henry P. DeForrest pioneers US fingerprinting.
The New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints
in US for criminals.
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 World's Fair Exposition
guarding the British Display. Sometime after the St. Louis World's Fair, the International
Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) created America's first national fingerprint
repository, called the National Bureau of Criminal Identification.
Edmond Locard wrote that if 12 points (Galton's Details) were the same between
two fingerprints, it would suffice as a positive identification. Locard's 12 points
seems to have been based on an unscientific "improvement" over the eleven
anthropometric measurements (arm length, height, etc.) used to "identify"
criminals before the adoption of fingerprints.
In 1924, an act of congress established the Identification Division of the FBI.
The IACP's National Bureau of Criminal Identification and the US Justice Department's
Bureau of Criminal Identification consolidated to form the nucleus of the FBI
fingerprint files. By 1946, the FBI had processed 100 million fingerprint cards
in manually maintained files; and by 1971, 200 million cards. With the introduction
of automated fingerprint identification system (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.