Juan vuCETICHs FINGERpRINT sYsTEM

Ivan Vucetic was born in Croatia on July 20, 1858. He immigrated to Argentina in 1882, where his name was changed to Juan Vucetich as a method of assimilation. He began working as a supervisor of several sanitation workers for Obras Sanitaria. In 1888 Vucetich began employment with the Central Police Department in Argentina, earning $30 a month.

In 1891 Vucetich began the first fingerprint files based on Galton pattern types. He studied Bertillon's and Galton's work, and during his course of study Vucetich discovered the papillary grooves on fingertips. He recorded that when one touches something, a mark is left via perspiration. Shortly after Vucetich's discovery the Argentine police created an office to identify potential offenders held in their jail. The chief of police of the province of Buenos Aires, Guillermo Nunez, put Vucetich in charge of organizing the Office of Anthropometric Identification. He gave Vucetich the May 2, 1891, issue of Scientific Review, which contained an article about digital impressions (that is, marks left by fingers). Nunez told him that he needed to create a system to classify fingerprints. Vucetich accepted this challenge and began a comparative analysis of all the fingerprints that came through their facilities. For the time being, however, the police department decided to include the Bertillon system with the fingerprint files.

Vucetich came up with 101 types of fingerprints, which he classified with the incomplete taxonomy of Galton. Vucetich believed that there were four fundamental forms that repeated themselves in fingerprints, which he classified as A-1, T-2, E-3, and V-4. In August 1891 Vucetich's system was used for the first time to register offenders entering their jail facilities. The next year Vucetich got the opportunity to make his first criminal identification using his fingerprint system. He was able to identify a woman who had murdered her two sons and cut her own throat in an attempt to place blame on another. Her bloody print was left on a doorpost, proving her identity as the murderer. In 1894 Vucetich published Dactiloscopia Comparada (Comparative fingerprinting), outlining his method of fingerprint classification.

Vucetich continued to work for the government, studying, researching, and classifying fingerprints using his method. In 1911 the provincial government of Buenos Aires passed a law requiring fingerprint registration for all adults subject to military service and who were eligible to vote. Vucetich completed this task by 1913 and decided to take some time away from work and travel. Upon his return to Argentina Vucetich faced humiliation. Although Buenos Aires decided to expand the fingerprint registration laws, the government faced strong protests. By 1917 the government canceled registrations, seized Vucetich's records, and forbade him to continue his work. In 1925 Vucetich died a disappointed man. Although Vucetich's system is still used in Argentina and many other Spanish-speaking countries today, he was never able to see how his classification system benefited the world.

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