Sir Francis Galtons Fingerprint System

Sir Francis Galton was born on February 16, 1822, in Sparkbroom, England. A Renaissance man, he is considered one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. Prior to getting involved in criminology, Galton studied finance, meteorology, psychology, and heredity at Birmingham,

London, and Cambridge. He left school and traveled to Africa in the hope of studying geography. Galton reviewed Bertillon's anthropometric system, as well as dactylography, and supported fingerprinting as the superior method of criminal identification. He also contacted Faulds and Herschel in attempts to study their work. Herschel unselfishly turned over his research, hoping that Galton's interest would revive the practical use of fingerprints.

Galton's primary interest in fingerprints was as an aid in determining heredity and racial background. He soon discovered that fingerprints offered no firm clues to an individual's intelligence or genetic history:

The races I have chiefly examined are English, most of whom are the upper and middle classes; the others chiefly from London board schools; Welsh, from the purest Welsh-speaking districts of South Wales; Jews from the large London schools, and Negroes from the territories of the Royal Niger Company. I have also a collection of Basque prints taken at Cambo, some twenty miles inland from Biarritz, which, although small, is large enough to warrant a provisional conclusion. As a first and only an approximately correct description, the English, Welsh, Jews, Negroes, and Basques, may all be spoken of as identical in the character of their finger prints; the same familiar patterns appearing in all of them which much the same degrees of frequency, the differences between groups of different races being not larger than those that occasionally occur between groups of the same race.

He was, however, able to scientifically prove what Herschel and Faulds already suspected: Fingerprints do not change over the course of an individual's lifetime, and no two fingerprints are exactly the same. According to his calculations, the odds of two individual fingerprints

being the same were one in 64 billion. Galton published these findings in his 1892 book Finger Prints that presented this statistical proof of the uniqueness of fingerprints and outlined many other principles of identification by fingerprints.

Galton has been noted as the inventor of dermatographics (fingerprint identification) because he was the first to place their study on a scientific basis, and this accomplishment laid the groundwork for their use in criminal cases. Galton was responsible for the basic nomenclature still used today: arch, loop, and whorl. In 1909 Galton was knighted for his numerous contributions to the field of criminal identification. He died in 1911.

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Responses

  • oberto colombo
    What is galtons primary interest in fingerprints?
    2 years ago
  • letizia ferri
    What is the contribution of Francis Galton toward forensic science?
    6 months ago
  • mentha
    Who is Galton in forensics and what were his major contributions?
    5 months ago

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