History of Fingerprints

Home ] Up ] [ History of Fingerprints ] Basic Principles ] Fingerprint Types ] Detection ] AFIS ]

History of Fingerprints
Basic Principles
Fingerprint Types

Ancient History

1000 BCE; archaeological evidence of ancient Chinese and Babylonian civilisations using fingerprints to sign legal documents


Early 1880's; William Herschel, Chief Administrative Officer of Bengal used thumb impressions to identify workers

1880; Dr Henry Faulds, an English physician working in Tokyo, published a letter in the journal Nature suggesting the use of fingerprints for identification purposes.

1892; After some years of research the English scientist Sir Francis Galton published  a book entitled Finger Prints in which was laid out a method of classification of fingerprints.

Read here an electronic "reprint" of Sir Francis Galton's paper on fingerprints in Nature

"Personal Identification and Description", Nature, June 28, 1888, pp 201-202

1897; Another Indian Police officer Sir Edward Henry proposed a modified classification system which was adopted by Scotland Yard in 1901 and is still the basis of the systems used in most English speaking countries.

1901; First official use of fingerprints in the USA by the New York City Civil Service Commission.

1930 National fingerprint file set up in America by the FBI.

The Present

Fingerprints are still the primary method of identification of criminals. Modern developments have included;

Improvements to the techniques used for the detection of prints, including the use of lasers and luminescence

Storage, searching, retrieval and matching of prints using computers (automated fingerprint identification systems; AFIS)  

Up ] [ History of Fingerprints ] Basic Principles ] Fingerprint Types ] Detection ] AFIS ]

Developed with support from the Science in Schools initiative of the Department of Education and Training, State Government of Victoria

Victoria Knowledge and Skills Logo


Selected by the SciLinks program, a service of National Science Teachers Association (USA)

SciLinks Logo

Copyright 2000-2005  Deakin University, Comments to Author: Associate Professor Simon W. Lewis  Revised: June 13, 2005