(examination of fingerprints for identification purposes)

Examining fingerprints, dactylography, especially for criminal examination.
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These police officers have discovered a thief's fingerprints but are disturbed by their size!

The scientific examination of fingerprints (finger writing) for identification purposes

Dactylography refers to the impression on a surface of the curves formed by the ridges on a fingertip; especially, such an impression made in ink and used as a means of identification.

Dactyloscopy is the technique of comparing fingerprints, typically those found at the setting of a crime and those of a suspect. Due to the uniqueness of the fingers' and hands' papillar lines, it is generally considered a reliable method of identifying a person. Juan Vucetich perfected dactyloscopy in late 19th and early 20th century.

Dactyloscopy is the technique of comparing fingerprints; especially, from a crime scene.

Juan Vucetich (July 20, 1858—January 25, 1925) was a Croatian-born Argentine anthropologist and police official who pioneered the use of fingerprinting. He emigrated to Argentina In 1882.

In 1891, Vucetic began the first filing of fingerprints, which he expanded significantly, based on ideas of Sir Francis Galton. He became the director of the Center for Dactyloscopy in Buenos Aires. At the time, he included the Bertillon system alongside the fingerprint files.

Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) was a French law enforcement officer and biometrics researcher, who created anthropometry, an identification system based on physical measurements. Anthropometry was the first scientific system police used to identify criminals. Until this time, criminals could only be identified based on eyewitness accounts, which are known to be unreliable. The method was eventually supplanted by fingerprinting.

Anthropometry (Greek ανθρωπος, man, and μετρον, measure, literally meaning "measurement of humans"), in physical anthropology, refers to one aspect of human variation: The different body sizes and proportions of individuals belonging to different populations. In modern American usage, at least, it specifically refers to measurement of living individuals, not the bones of deceased individuals (osteometry or craniometry). Anthropometry, however, gradually fell into disfavour, and it has been generally supplanted by the superior system of finger prints.

Sir Francis Galton F.R.S. (February 16, 1822—January 17, 1911), half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was a Victorian polymath, British anthropologist, eugenicist (science of creating superior offspring), tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician. He devised a method for classifying fingerprints useful in forensics. A person's fingerprint can also be used as a biometric method to identify individuals.

Vucetich developed the dactylographic system that has had global usage.

In 1892, Vucetich made the first positive identification of a criminal in a case where Francisca Rojas had killed her two sons and then cut her throat, trying to put the blame on the outside attacker. A bloody print identified her as the killer.

Argentine police adopted Vucetich's method of fingerprinting classification and it spread to police forces all over the world. Vucetich improved his method with new material and in 1904 published Dactiloscopía Comparada ("Comparative Dactyloscopy"). He traveled to India and China and attended scientific conferences to gather more data.

Mark Twain summarized the dactylographic system very clearly

Every human being carries with him from his cradle to his grave certain physical marks which do not change their character, and by which he can always be identified—and that without shade of doubt or question. These marks are his signature, his physiological autograph, so to speak, and this autograph can not be counterfeited, nor can he disguise it or hide it away, nor can it become illegible by the wear and mutations of time.

This signature is not his face, age can change that beyond recognition; it is not his hair, for that can fall out; it is not his height, for duplicates of that exist; it is not his form, for duplicates of that exist also, whereas this signature is this man's very own—there is no duplicate of it among the swarming populations of the globe. This autograph consists of the delicate lines or corrugations with which Nature marks the insides of the hands and the soles of the feet.

—Compiled from information located in
Samuel Clemens, writing as Mark Twain, in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, 1894;
Quoted by Colin Beavan, at the beginning of his book
Fingerprints—The origins of crime detection and the murder case that launched forensic science;
Hyperion, New York, 2001.

A list of related "finger" words: dactylo-