History of Fingerprints

Events

Prehistoric

100,000 bc - 1,000 bc

Ancient artifacts including carvings similar to friction ridge skin have been discovered in many places throughout the world. Picture writing of a hand with ridge patterns was discovered in Nova Scotia. In ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions.

200s-China

200 BC

Handprints were used as evidence during burglary investigations during the Qin Dynasty. This was done using clay seals bearing friction ridge impressions.

1400s

1318

Jaamehol-Tawarikh by Khajeh Rashiduddin Fazlollah Hamadani comments about the practice of identifying persons from their fingerprints.

1600s

1684

Friction ridge skin observations were first published in "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London" by Dr. Nehemiah Grew. Also done in "Anatomy of the Human Body" by Govard Bidloo. In Marcello Malpighi's treatise, fingerprint ridges, spirals and loops are mentioned

1788-Mayer

1788

German anatomist and doctor J. C. A. Mayer wrote the book Anatomical Copper-plates with Appropriate Explanations containing drawings of friction ridge skin patterns. Mayer was the first to declare that friction ridge skin is unique.

1823-Purkinje

1823

Purkinje published his thesis discussing nine fingerprint patterns but made no mention of the value of fingerprints for personal identification.

1858-Herschel

1858

Sir William James Herschel used fingerprints on native contracts. Thus, the first wide-scale, modern-day use of fingerprints was predicated, not upon scientific evidence, but upon superstitious beliefs. Sir William 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.

1863-Coulier

1863

Professor Paul-Jean Coulier published his observations that (latent) fingerprints can be developed on paper by iodine fuming, explaining how to preserve (fix) such developed impressions and mentioning the potential for identifying suspects' fingerprints by use of a magnifying glass

1870s to 1880-Faulds

1870 - 1880

Faulds took up the study of "skin-furrows" after noticing finger marks on specimens of "prehistoric" pottery. He recognized the importance of fingerprints as a means of identification, but devised a method of classification as well. Dr. Henry Faulds published an article in the Scientific Journal, "Nature" (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.

1877-Taylor

1877

Thomas Taylor proposed that finger and palm prints left on any object might be used to solve crimes.

1882-Bertillon

1882

Alphonse Bertillon devised a system of classification, known as anthropometry or the Bertillon System, using measurements of parts of the body.

1882-Thompson

1882

irst known use of fingerprints in the United States was when Gilbert Thompson used his own thumb print on a document to help prevent forgery.

1883-Mark Twain

1883

In Mark Twain's book, "Life on the Mississippi", a murderer was identified by the use of fingerprint identification. In a later book, "Pudd'n Head Wilson", there was a dramatic court trial including fingerprint identification. A movie was made from this book in 1916 and a made-for-TV movie in 1984.

1888-Galton

1888

Sir Francis Galton began his observations of fingerprints as a means of identification in the 1880's.

1891-Vucetich

1891

began the first fingerprint files based on Galton pattern types. At first, Vucetich included the Bertillon System with the files.

1892-Alvarez&Galton

1892

Eduardo Alvarez made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He was able to identify Francisca Rojas, 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. Alvarez was trained by Juan Vucetich. Sir Francis Galton published his book, "Finger Prints" in 1892, establishing the individuality and permanence of fingerprints. The book included the first published classification system for fingerprints. In 1893, Galton published the book "Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints," and 1895 the book "Fingerprint Directories." Galton identified the characteristics by which fingerprints can be identified. A few of these same characteristics (minutia) are basically still in use today, and are sometimes referred to as Galton Details.

1897-Haque & Bose

1897

Haque and Bose are the two Indian fingerprint experts credited with primary development of the Henry System of fingerprint classification (named for their supervisor, Edward Richard Henry). The Henry classification system is still used in English-speaking countries (primarily as the manual filing system for accessing paper archive files that have not been scanned and computerized).

1900-ERHenry

1900

Edward Richard 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 the relatively inaccurate Bertillon system of anthropometric measurement, which only partially relied on fingerprints for identification.

1901

1901

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

1902

1902

First systematic use of fingerprints in the U.S. by the New York Civil Service Commission for testing.

1903

1903

the New York City Civil Service Commission, the New York State Prison System and the Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas began using fingerprinting.

1904

1904

The use of fingerprints began at the St. Louis Police Department. 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.

1905

1905

U.S. Army begins using fingerprints. 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.
1907

1907

1907

U.S. Navy begins using fingerprints.

1908

1908

U.S. Marine Corps begins using fingerprints.

1910

1910

In 1910, Frederick Brayley published the first American textbook on fingerprints, "Arrangement of Finger Prints, Identification, and Their Uses."

1915

1915

In October 1915, a group of twenty-two identification personnel met and initiated the "International Association for Criminal Identification"

1918

1918

Edmond Locard wrote that if 12 points (Galton's Details) were the same between two fingerprints, it would suffice as a positive identification.

1924

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. During the decades since, the FBI's fingerprint national fingerprint support has been indispensable in supporting American law enforcement.

1940s

1940

most American fingerprints experts agreed there was no scientific basis for a minimum number of corresponding minutiae to determine an "identification" and the twelve point rule was dropped from the FBI publication, "The Science of Fingerprints."

1946

1946

the FBI had processed 100 million fingerprint cards in manually maintained files; and by 1971, 200 million cards. the files were later split into computerized criminal files and manually maintained civil files

1973

1973

The International Association for Identification Standardization Committee authored a resolution stating that each identification is unique and no valid basis exists to require a minimum number of matching points in two friction ridge impressions to establish a positive identification.

1974-The Fingerprint Society

1974

four employees of the Hertfordshire (United Kingdom) Fingerprint Bureau contacted fingerprint experts throughout the UK and began organization of that country's first professional fingerprint organization, the National Society of Fingerprint Officers. The initials F.F.S. behind a fingerprint expert's name indicates they are recognized as a Fellow of the Fingerprint Society. The Society hosts annual educational conferences with speakers and delegates attending from many countries.

1977

1977

At New Orleans, Louisiana on 1 August 1977, delegates to the 62nd Annual Conference of the International Association for Identification (IAI) voted to establish the world's first certification program for fingerprint experts. Since 1977, the IAI's Latent Print Certification Board has proficiency tested thousands of applicants, and periodically proficiency tests all IAI Certified Latent Print Examiners (CLPEs).

1995

1995

the Neurim Declaration states "No scientific basis exists for requiring that a pre-determined minimum number of friction ridge features must be resent in two impression in order to establish a positive identification."

2012

2012

INTERPOL's Automated Fingerprint Identification System repository exceeds 150,000 sets of fingerprints for important international criminal records from 190 member countries.

2016-World's Largest Database

2016

The Unique Identification Authority of India is the world's largest fingerprint (and largest multi-modal biometric) system using fingerprint, face and iris biometric records.

2016-America's Largest Databases

2016

The largest AFIS repository in America is operated by the Department of Homeland Security's US Visit Program, containing over 120 million persons' fingerprints. The largest criminal fingerprint AFIS repository in America is the FBI's Next Generation Identification. NGI is the FBI's most valuable service to American law enforcement, providing accurate and rapid fingerprint identification services. Interpol, the European Union's Prüm Treaty, the FBI's Next Generation Identification and other initiatives seek to improve cross-jurisdiction sharing (probing and sharing/pushing) of important finger and palm print data to identify criminals.