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History of Fingerprinting

We can change our names or alter our appearance, but fingerprints are forever. Fingerprints are a constant in our lives from the day we’re born. And, since no two people have exactly the same fingerprints – not even identical twins – they provide a unique form of identification.

Archaeologists discovered evidence that ancient peoples used fingerprints to “sign” or seal business deals or government papers thousands of years ago. However, the modern science of collecting, classifying and comparing fingerprints dates to 1880. That’s when British physician Dr. Henry Faulds published his research into fingerprints and suggested that they could be used for personal identification. Dr. Faulds also developed the traditional ink-based method of collecting fingerprints.

Sir Francis Galton, an anthropologist, quickly advanced Dr. Faulds’ groundbreaking science by identifying and naming the main patterns found in fingerprints, such as loop, whorl and arch. By 1900, his friend Sir Edward Richard Henry, developed a system for classifying fingerprints that is still in use today.

At the turn of the 20th century, fingerprinting was rapidly adopted by police departments and governments around the world as a way to positively identify people. Today, fingerprints are used to help solve crimes, identify victims of crimes and natural disasters, keep guns out of the hands of criminals and enable employers to conduct thorough background checks on applicants for jobs ranging from police officers and fire fighters to teachers and child care workers.

While the science of fingerprinting has remained unchanged, the technology used to collect fingerprints has experienced dramatic breakthroughs in recent years. At many Fieldprint® collection sites, fingerprints are collected through Livescan technology, which uses an electronic scanner instead of the traditional ink-and-card process. Fingerprints can be stored, shared and analyzed digitally, making the entire process faster and more accurate.