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A History of Fingerprinting – From Handprints to Touch ID - 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 votes

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The history of fingerprinting as a means of authentication and use as a forensic investigation tool dates back further than you probably think. In fact, there's even evidence that prehistoric humans (you know, like the ones in caves) were aware of the unique patterns on their hands and fingers. We've come a long way from those days and in-fact hundreds of millions of people now carry biometric fingerprint authentication machines with them every day. They're called iPhones!



1. Fingerprint history dates back to ancient times. A prehistoric drawing of a hand with ridge patterns was found in Nova Scotia. Fingerprints in clay turned up on tablets for business transactions in ancient Babylon.

2. A Portuguese explorer and historian, Joao de Barros, wrote about early Chinese merchants using fingerprints in business contracts. In addition, parents used fingerprints and footprints to tell their children apart.

3. In July 1858, Sir William Herschel used handprints and fingerprints in Jungipoor, India on contracts with the natives to differentiate employees from others on paydays. Over time, he noticed the impressions could prove identity, were unique to everyone and the prints stayed the same throughout a person’s life.

4. In 1880, after a decade of studying “skin furrows” on the fingertips, Dr. Henry Faulds, published an article about the value of fingerprints as a way to identify individuals and the potential use of ink to obtain fingerprints. He successfully conducted the first fingerprint identification of a greasy print on a bottle of alcohol.

5. The first use of fingerprints in North America occurred in 1882, when Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico placed his fingerprints on a document to ward off forgery.

6. The first use of fingerprints in North America occurred in 1882, when Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico placed his fingerprints on a document to ward off forgery.

7. In the late 1880s, British anthropologist, Sir Francis Galton, created the first fingerprint classification system. The system outlined the characte2ristics, known as Galton’s Details, which allowed fingerprints to be identified. Most of these characteristics are still used today.

8. In 1891, a police official in Argentina, Juan Vucetich, put together fingerprint files. He is credited with the first criminal fingerprint identification in 1892 when he solved a murder after the accused left a bloody fingerprint on a doorpost.

9. In 1903, fingerprints were used in the U.S. for criminals starting with the New York State Prison System. Over the next 25 years, additional prisons, the military and law enforcement agencies adopted the practice and sent copies of fingerprint cards to the National Bureau of Criminal Identification.

10. In 1925, the Identification Division of the F.B.I. was created in the U.S. and by 1971, 200 million fingerprint cards were processed.

11. In 1974, the first commercial biometric device became available. It was a hand geometry recognition system.

12. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, biometric hand geometry was used to control access to the Olympic Village. This was the first major public use of the system.

13. In 1999, the U.S. created an Integrated AFIS maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. It allows fingerprints to be submitted by mail or electronically and shared between agencies. Currently, millions of fingerprints from around the world are stored in the computerized system.

14. In Canada, fingerprints are submitted electronically to the Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS). Technology such as Livescan and Cardscan mean fingerprints can be digitized and submitted directly to CCRTIS for search.

15. Fingerprint identification has also made its way outside of the law enforcement realm. In 2013, Apple used Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner, in consumer smartphones.

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Pacific Fingerprint Services Inc.(PFSI) was founded by our President Mike Olsen who is a retired fingerprint examiner and forensic identification specialist with more than 30 years in law enforcement.

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