History Of Fingerprinting Part 2
Herschel’s main role as a fingerprint pioneer lies in the area of the immutability of ridged skin also mentioned by Faulds. Throughout his life, Herschel took his own fingerprints and noted that no change had occurred in them in over 50 years. He also had a small collection of about 20 sets of fingerprints and used his technique of handprinting to detect forgeries of legal documents. The fingerprints taken from prisoners were also of great interest to him, and he had the opportunity to see the same prisoners fingerprinted several times over a number of years with no change occurring in their fingerprints.
Although his interest in fingerprints predates that of Faulds, Herschel did not make his feelings known and did not suggest that he had developed a method of registering and identifying criminals, nor did he foresee any crime scene application as Faulds had done.
Sir Francis Galton
In 1892, a noted English scientist of the time, Sir Francis Galton, published an accurate and in-depth study of the fingerprinting science that included an attempt at a system of fingerprint classification to facilitate the handling of large collections of fingerprints. Although Galton’s work proved to be sound and became the foundation of modern fingerprint science and technology, his approach to classification was inadequate, and it was to be others who were to successfully apply his work.
Juan Vucetich, an Argentinian police officer, research the science of fingerprints, corresponded with Galton, then devised his own system of fingerprint classification, which he called “icnofalagometrico”. This system was put into practice in September 1891, and in March 1892, Vucetich opened the first fingerprint bureau at San Nicholas, Buenos Aires. Within a short time of the bureau being set up, the first conviction by means of fingerprint evidence in a murder trial was obtained. In June 1892 at Necochea, Francisca Rojas claimed that she had been brutally attacked and her two children murdered by a neighbouring ranch worker named Velasquez. Velasquez was arrested but refused to confess to the murder of the two children. Nine days after the crime, a search of the crime scene was carried out and a number of fingerprints in blood were found on a door post pf the woman’s hut. The post was taken to the fingerprint bureau for comparison with the inked fingerprint impressions of Velasquez. They were not identical, but the blood impressions were found to be identical with those of Rojas. When confronted with this evidence, Rojas confessed to the murder of her children, and in July 1892 she was found guilty of their murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sir Edward Henry
An Englishman, Sir Edward Henry, who had been given tuition in fingerprints by Galton, devised a workable classification system independently of Vucetich and implemented it in India in 1897. Henry published his book Classification and Uses of Fingerprints in 1900.
In 1901, Henry was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Police at New Scotland Yard and began to introduce his fingerprint system into that institution. By the end of that year, the Fingerprint Office at New Scotland Yard was fully functional, the first British court conviction by fingerprints being obtained in 1902. Approximately 10 years after the publication of Henry’s book, his classification system was being used by police forces and prison authorities throughout the English-speaking world.