Crime Scene Forensics, LLC
History of Fingerprints
History of Fingerprints
1858 - Sir William Herschel, British Administrator in District in India, requires fingerprint and
signatures on civil contracts
Fingerprints have been used as a means of positively identifying people for many years.
Here is a brief history of the science of fingerprints:
1880 - Dr. Henry Faulds, a Scottish doctor in Tokyo, Japan published an article in the  
scientific journal: “Nature”; in which he discussed fingerprints as a means of personal
identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints.

1891 - Juan Vucetich, Argentine Police Official, Initiated the fingerprinting of criminals,
(First case used was the Rojas Homicide in 1892)
1892 - Sir Francis Galton, a British Anthropologist and cousin to Charles Darwin, publishes the
first book on fingerprints. In his book, Galton identifies the individuality and uniqueness
of fingerprints. The unique characteristics of fingerprints, as identified by Galton, will
officially become known as minutiae, however they are sometimes still referred to as
"Galton’s Details".
1896 - International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Establish National Bureau of
Criminal Identification, for the exchange of arrest information.
1901 - Sir Edward Henry, an Inspector General of Police in Bengal, India, develops the first
system of classifying fingerprints. This system of classifying fingerprints was first adopted
as the official system in England, and eventually spread throughout the world.
1903 – The William West – Will West Case at a Federal Prison in Leavenworth, Kansas,
changed the way that people were classified and identified.

When a man named Will West entered the Leavenworth Prison System, in 1903, he was
“booked” into the prison, as all other inmates. His face was photographed, and his Bertillion
measurements were taken. Upon completion of this process, it was noted that another
inmate, known as William West, who was already incarcerated at Leavenworth, had the
same name, Bertillion measurements, and bore a striking resemblance to Will West.
The incident called the reliability of Bertillion measurements into question, and it was decided
that a more positive means of identification was necessary. As the Bertillion System began to
decline, the use of fingerprints in identifying and classifying individuals began to rise. After 1903,
many prison systems began to use fingerprints as the primary means of identification.
1905 – U.S. Military adopts the use of fingerprints – soon thereafter, police agencies began to
adopt the use of fingerprints

1908 – The first official fingerprint card was developed        

1924 – Formation of ID Division of FBI

1980 – First computer data base of fingerprints was developed, which came to be known as the
Automated Fingerprint Identification System, (AFIS).  In the present day, there are nearly
70 million cards, or nearly 700 million individual fingerprints entered in AFIS.
1882 - Alphonse Bertillion, French anthropologist, devised method of  
body measurements to produce a formula used to classify individuals.

Bertillion's formula involved taking the measurements of a persons  
body parts, and recording these measurements on a card. This
method of  classifying and identifying people became known as the
Bertillion System.
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1883 - Mark Twain in his book, Life on the Mississippi, a murderer was identified by the use
of fingerprint identification.
1892 - Juan Vucetich made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He was able to identify
the print of a woman who murdered her two sons and cut her own throat in  an attempt
to place the blame on another person.  Her bloody print was left on a door post, proving
her identity as the murderer.
1917 - First Palm print identification is made in Nevada. The bloody palm print, found on a
letter left at the scene of a stage coach robbery and murder of its driver, was identified
to Ben Kuhl.
(State v. Kuhl 42 Nev. 195 175 PAC 190 (1918)).
appealed his conviction to the Illinois Supreme Court on the basis of a questionable new
scientific technique. The Illinois Supreme Court cited the historical research and use of
fingerprints as a means of reliable identification in upholding the conviction, and thus
establishing the use of fingerprints as a reliable means of identification.

Jennings was executed in 1912.