Francis Galton and Fingerprints:


Although Galton was not the first to propose the use of fingerprints for identification (Sir William Herschel had used them in India for this purpose) he was the first to place their study on a scientific basis and so lay the groundwork for their use in criminal cases.  He was able to collect a large sample of prints through his Anthropological laboratories, eventually amassing over 8,000 sets.  His study of minutiae in prints provided the  foundation for meaningful comparison of different prints, and he was able to construct a statistical proof of the uniqueness, by minutiae, of individual prints. 

Galton also provided the first workable fingerprint classification system, which was later adapted by E. R. Henry for practical use in police forces and other bureaucratic settings.  Most of all, Galton's extensive popular advocacy of the use of prints helped to convince a skeptical public that they could be used reliably for identification. 

For the popular controversy over the role of Henry Faulds in the discovery of fingerprinting, see the following review of the evidence.  Not also that the major works on fingerprinting by E. R. Henry, William Herschel and Henry Faulds are now available here in full-text facsimile form.

Galton published two major works about fingerprints. The cover of the first, Finger Prints,  contained a full set of his own prints   He also published an important booklet on decipherment of blurred fingerprints:

Facsimile 1892 Finger Prints. Macmillan , London
Facsimile 1893 Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints. Macmillan , London
  1894 Physical Index to 100 Persons Based on their Measures and Finger Prints Privately printed
Facsimile 1895 Finger Print Directories. Macmillan , London

Galton also published a great number of scholarly papers, popular articles,  letters and interviews on the subject of fingerprints.  This was important groundwork, and prepared the way for the positive findings of the Parliamentary committee of 1894, which soon led to the acceptance of fingerprint testimony in the courts, to identify recidivists, and later to their forensic use.

 

Facsimile 1888 'Personal identification and description.' Nature 38 : 173-7, 201-2
Facsimile 1888 'Personal identification and description.' (revised version) Proceedings of the Royal Institution 12 : 346-60
Facsimile 1889 'Personal identification and description.' Journal of the Anthropological Institute 18 : 177-91
Facsimile 1900 'Identification offices in India and Egypt.' Nineteenth Century 48 : 118-26
Facsimile 1910 'Numeralised profiles for classification and recognition.' Nature 83 : 127-30
Facsimile 1888 Personal Identification Scientific American Supplement 26 (659, August 18) : 10532-3
Facsimile 1888 Personal Identification. Times, The (May 26) : 13c
Facsimile 1890 'The patterns in thumb and finger marks.' Nature 43 : 117-8
Facsimile 1890 'The patterns in thumb and finger marks.' Proceedings of the Royal Society 48 (November 27) : 455-7
Facsimile 1891 Identification by finger tips. Nineteenth Century 30 (August) : 303-11
Facsimile 1891 'Methods of indexing finger-marks.' Nature 44 : 141
Facsimile 1891 'Methods of indexing finger-marks.' Proceedings of the Royal Society 49 (May 28) : 540-48
Facsimile 1891 'The patterns in thumb and finger marks.' Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B 182 : 1-23
Facsimile 1891 'The patterns in thumb and finger marks.' Journal of the Anthropological Institute 20 : 360-1
Facsimile 1892 'Imprints of the Hand, by Dr. Forgeot (exhibited by Francis Galton' Journal of the Anthropological Institute 21 : 282-283
Facsimile 1892 'Finger prints and their registration as a means of personal identification.' Transactions of the Seventh International Congress of Hygiene and Demography 10 : 301-3
Facsimile 1893 'Identification.' [Letter] Nature 48 : 222
Facsimile 1893 'Finger prints in the Indian Army.' Nature 48 : 595
Facsimile 1893 'Recent introduction into the Indian Army of the method of finger-prints for the identification of recruits.' Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science : 902
Facsimile 1893 'Enlarged finger prints.' Photographic Work (February 10)
Facsimile 1893 'Identification.' [Letter] Times, The (July 7) : 4e
Facsimile 1893 'Payments through telegram by P.O. Savings books.' [Letter] Times, The (December 27) : 7e
Facsimile 1895 'The wonders of a finger print.' Sketch (November 20)
  1896 'Les empreintes digitales' Comptes-rendus du IVe Congres International d'Anthropologie Criminelle. Sessions de Geneve : 35-8
Facsimile 1896 'Prints of scars.' [Letter] Nature 53 : 295
Facsimile 1896 Prints of Scars. Scientific American 74 (March 14) : 168
Facsimile 1899 'Finger prints of young children.' Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 69 : 868-9
Facsimile 1902 'Finger print evidence.' Nature 66 : 606
Facsimile 1905 [Review of] Guide to Finger Print Identification, Henry Faulds Nature 72 : iv-v Supplement
Facsimile 1909 Identification by finger prints. [Letter] Times, The (January 13)