In the days gone by, many civilisations would use tattooing, branding, and even maiming as means of identifying people, especially the criminals. Thankfully nowadays, we have much less painful and much more humane methods at our disposal. One of the most useful and tried and tested methods is fingerprint based identification.
What is a fingerprint?
Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. They form from pressure on a baby’s tiny, developing fingers in the womb. No two people have been found to have the same fingerprints — they are totally unique. There’s a one in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else’s.
Fingerprints are even more unique than DNA, the genetic material in each of our cells. Although identical twins can share the same DNA — or at least most of it — they can’t have the same fingerprints.
Fingerprints form before birth and, except for cuts resulting in permanent scars and diseases such as leprosy, remain unchanged until the body decomposes after death.
Types of Fingerprint Patterns
Introduction of Fingerprints Classification System
In 1874, Dr Henry Faulds, a Scottish missionary working in Japan, realised that fingerprint patterns didn’t change. On the request of Faulds and Charles Darwin, Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton took the responsibility of developing a fingerprint classification system. He collected around 8000 fingerprint samples and analysed them, before finally coming up with a book titled Fingerprints, wherein he introduced the system of fingerprints classification, in 1892.
First Use of Fingerprints to Solve a Case
While Sir Francis Galton was working on fingerprints classification, an Argentine police officer, Juan Vucetich was working on the possibility of using fingerprints to nab criminals. In 1892, he was working on a case involving the murder of two boys. The prime suspect was the partner of the victims’ mother. However, Vucetich’s investigations revealed that the fingerprints found on the crime scene were those of the mother herself, and not her partner as suspected. This was the first use of fingerprints to solve a mystery pertaining to some crime.