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Fingerprints as a System of Identification (October 8, 1880)


In a letter published in the London journal Nature on October 8, 1880, Henry Faulds was the first to propose the use of fingerprints as a system of identification, including the scientific identification of criminals. In his letter entitled "On the Skin-Furrows of the Hand," Faulds, a missionary, physician and superintendent of Tuskiji Hospital (Tsukiji) in Tokyo, wrote:

"I am sanguine that the careful study of these patterns may be useful in several ways.

1. We may perhaps be able to extend to other animals the analogies found by me to exist in the monkeys.

2. These analogies may admit of further analysis, and may assist, when better understood, in ethnological classifications.

3. It so, those which are found in ancient pottery may become of immense historical importance.

4. The fingers of mummies, by special preparation, may yield results for comparison. I am very doubtful, however, of this.

5. When bloody finger-marks or impressions of clay, glass, &c., exist, they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals " (http://www.clpex.com/Articles/History/Faulds1880.htm, accessed 03-27-2010).