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A Quick History of Fingerprinting

FingerprintsWe all know fingerprints can be used for personal identification. Criminal suspects are routinely fingerprinted, as are many professionals when they receive their state licenses. Millions of crimes have been prosecuted using fingerprints as evidence.
It might surprise you to learn that fingerprinting as a criminal science has only been around for about 100 years. While there is evidence that ancients knew enough to associate fingerprints with the people who left them, we’ve only been using fingerprints evidence to prosecute criminals since the early 20th century.

Here’s a quick history of how cultures have used fingerprints over the centuries:

2,000 B.C. – Babylonians require fingerprints on contracts to help avoid forgery.

250 B.C. – Chinese officials use fingerprints to seal official documents.

700 A.D. – The Japanese adopt the Chinese practice of signing contracts with fingerprints.

1684 A.D. – England’s Nehemiah Grew uses a microscope to study and then publishes the first scientific paper describing the ridges found on fingers and palms.

1788 – German anatomist Johann Christoph Andreas Mayer is the first to recognize that each set of fingerprints is unique.

1880 – Working in Tokyo, surgeon Henry Faulds publishes an article in the journal Nature describing a system for recording fingerprints using ink and using them for criminal identification. Six years later, he takes his idea to London’s Metropolitan Police, where it is summarily rejected.

1892 – Argentinean police chief Juan Vucetich establishes the world’s first finger fingerprint bureau to aid in criminal identification and prosecution.

1897 – In Calcutta, India, officers Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose develop the “Henry System” for fingerprint classification (named after their supervisor, Sir Edward Richard Henry).

1898 – The first case in which fingerprints are used to obtain a criminal conviction takes place in Bengal, India.

1901 – The Henry System is adopted by Scotland Yard.

1906 – Fingerprinting is adopted as an investigative tool by the New York City Police Department.

1911 – In the case of People v. Jennings, a U.S. Court of Appeals rules favorably on the admissibility of fingerprints as evidence in criminal cases. People v. Crispi is the first criminal conviction obtained solely on fingerprint evidence.

Earn Your Associate Degree in Criminal Investigations at Everest University Online

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a professional detective in either the public or private sector, consider earning your associate degree in criminal investigations at Everest University Online, a division of Everest University. This two-year program is designed for working professionals who want to earn their degree at home on their own schedule and at their own pace.

Courses in the Criminal Investigations associate degree program include:

  • Criminalistics
  • Graphics and Documentation
  • Fingerprints Classification
  • Crime Scene Photography
  • Biological Evidence
  • Collecting and Presenting Audio and Visual Evidence
  • Crime Scene Dynamics
  • Technology Crimes

Graduates of this program often go on to entry-level careers as:

  • Investigator
  • Law Enforcement Support
  • Records Clerk
  • Security
  • Judicial Clerk

For more information on this program or other career-focused degree programs, including associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, contact Everest University Online today!

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit our website at

Tagged with: Articles, Criminal Justice

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