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The Origin of Finger-Printing


WHEN Sir Francis Galton issued “Finger-Print Directories” in 1895 he inscribed the volume to Sir William J. Herschel, Bart., in the following words:—“I do myself the pleasure of dedicating this book to you, in recognition of your initiative in employing finger-prints as official signatures, nearly forty years ago, and in grateful remembrance of the invaluable help you freely gave me when I began to study them.” And now, in the year 1916, fifty-eight years after he lighted “upon a discovery which promised escape from one great difficulty of administration in India,” Sir William Herschel tells the story of how our modern system of identification by means of finger-prints was born in the magistrates' court at Jungipoor, on the upper reaches of the Hooghly. In his dedication to Sir Edward Henry, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir William writes as follows:—” I am offering you this old story of the beginnings of fingerprinting, by way of expressing my warm and continuous admiration of those masterly developments of its original applications, whereby, first in Bengal and the Transvaal, and then in England, you have fashioned a weapon of penetrating certainty for the sterner needs of justice.”

The Origin of Finger-Printing.

By Sir William J. Herschel, Bart. Pp. 41. (London: Oxford University Press, 1916.) Price with paper covers, 1s. net.

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The Origin of Finger-Printing . Nature 98, 268 (1916).

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