Henry Faulds

Born: 1 June 1843.

Died: 19 March 1930.

Occupation categories: Physicians

henry faulds

Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician, established the foundation for criminology’s scientific study of fingerprints.

Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician, and a missionary were born on June 1, 1843. His parents were prosperous at first, but much of their wealth was destroyed in the famous City of Glasgow bank collapse of 1855. Faulds went to Japan as a missionary, working as a surgeon superintendent in a Tokyo hospital, teaching at the local university, and founding the Tokyo Institute for the Blind. He is probably most known for his work on fingerprints, which led him to believe that each person had a unique pattern.

Early life

Faulds was born into a low-income household in Beith, North Ayrshire. He was forced to quit school at the age of thirteen and traveled to Glasgow to work as a clerk to support his family; at the age of twenty one, he decided to enroll in Glasgow University’s Facility of Arts, where he studied mathematics, logic, and the classics. He went on to Anderson’s College to study medicine and received his doctorate.

Following graduation, Faulds joined the Church of Scotland as a medical missionary. He was dispatched to British India in 1871, where he served for two years in a poor hospital in Darjeeling.

He was appointed by the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland to establish a medical mission in Japan on July twenty third, 1873. He married Isabella Wilson in September of that year, and the couple left for Japan in December.

Study of Fingerprint

Each person’s fingerprints are unique. Even identical twins with identical DNA have unique fingerprints. Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints can be used for a variety of applications, including background checks, biometric security, mass disaster identification, and, of course, criminal circumstances. Fingerprint analysis has been used to identify criminals and solve crimes for more than a century, and it is still a highly valuable tool for law enforcement. One of the fingerprints’ most important purposes is to assist investigators in linking one crime scene to another involving the same person. Detectives can use fingerprint identification to follow a criminal’s past, previous arrests, and convictions, as well as make decisions about sentence, probation, parole, and pardon.

He was a pioneer in the development of contemporary fingerprint technology and the use of fingerprints in forensics. Faulds was fascinated by the imprints left in shards of ancient pottery by potters while working on archaeological investigations in Japan in the 1870s.

This remark is said to have prompted him to pursue more research on fingerprints. He then took fingerprints from his students, saw that each one was unique, and began to think about how they could be used to identify their owners.

In 1880, he wrote to Charles Darwin about his hypothesis, but Darwin forwarded it to his relative Francis Galton. Faulds published a letter in Nature magazine the same year about the forensic possibilities of fingerprints, describing the use of printer ink to take impressions that may be used to identify criminals. He later talked about how he used fingerprints to figure out who stole alcohol from a bottle at his hospital.

Faulds offered two specific examples of how forensically he has employed prints to determine the identity of people at “crime” scenes. To go on, we just have his descriptions of the events. The first included the theft of surgical alcohol from a bottle in his hospital, which he was able to link to one of his employees due to a set of ten greasy prints on the bottle. The second case featured a burglary suspect leaving a sooty palm print on a hospital wall, which he was able to prove did not match someone accused of the burglary. That is, at least, how the second incident has been told, based on Faulds’ report in Nature.

However, Faulds corrected this second case many years later, claiming that the sooty palm print had no visible fingerprints! He analyzed the hand’s basic outline, and this second case has nothing to do with fingerprint analysis. This critical correction does not appear to have been noted by Beavan or anyone else. The reports about Faulds’ usage of fingerprints should be taken with caution.

Beavan claims that Henry Faulds is the genuine creator of the fingerprint method, who was cheated of his claim by a conspiracy of the day’s leading scientists. He claims that Francis Galton and William Herschel, who is often credited with pioneering the modern usage of fingerprints, had a “secret pact” to discredit Faulds. Galton, according to Beavan, stole Faulds’ findings and passed it off as his own. To support his thesis, he includes a lot of secondary information, mostly in the form of brief biographies of people involved in the history of fingerprinting and graphic stories of terrible murder cases. He accepts all of Faulds’ claims about his role in the creation of fingerprinting without question.

Beavan has not done any original study in the area because his declared objective was to make a popular fiction rather than a scholarly one. He offers nothing to the debate that hasn’t previously been said by other Faulds enthusiasts. He provides an incomplete bibliography that is often plainly inaccurate, and he frequently misrepresents his listed sources. There’s nothing in his material to back up his claims about people like Galton, and there’s no reason to disagree with Faulds’ assessment that he was an interesting but minor figure.

Faulds did not publish anything else on the subject of fingerprints until 1894 when he wrote a highly controversial letter to Nature. In 1905, he published his first detailed publication, a book. It’s unclear what Faulds was doing about it between 1880 and 1905. After sending multiple letters to police agencies around the world encouraging the use of fingerprints to identify criminals, he appears to have accepted defeat, according to his writings. He left Japan in 1884 (except for a brief return) and lived in England, where he later launched many unsuccessful journals and authored a book about his experiences there.

It’s interesting that this book, Nine Years in Nipon, makes no mention of fingerprints or the pottery fragments that were so important in Faulds’ version of the event (1885). There are numerous more details, such as Faulds’ favorite foods, intriguing places he’s traveled, and descriptions of plants and animals, but no mention of fingerprints. It is possible he did not realize how vital fingerprint research would become at the time or the implications of the research effort required to transform it into a science.

According to his writings, whatever collection of prints he had started in Japan was discontinued when he returned to England, except for “observations from time to time… to confirm my early results” (1911). (suffering, he says, from “exhausting illness from climate and overwork”, though it appears that he had fallen out with the Church authorities about the future of the mission in Japan). One can collect prints everywhere in the world, so there was no reason why he couldn’t have expanded his collection in England if he wanted to explore a topic further. Nor is there any reasonable explanation, apart from his inactivity in the field, for the absence from the professional journals or the popular magazines of any description of his work and findings.

Faulds returned to Britain in 1885 due to his wife’s illness. He sent letters to the chiefs of the world’s main police departments, offering his fingerprinting technology, but received little response. To make matters worse, Alphonse Bertillon, a young Frenchman, had devised the second system of scientific criminal identification, anthropometry. Francis Galton released a book on the use of fingerprints in 1892, but Faulds’ contribution was not included. A fingerprint bureau was established in 1901 by Edward Henry, a former colleague of Galton and the Commissioner of Police at Scotland Yard.

Faulds approached Scotland Yard regarding the forensic use of fingerprints after his return to the UK, but they did not act on his proposal, and fingerprinting did not receive official attention until 1894 when it was considered by a Parliamentary committee.

By 1905, fingerprint technology had become well-established, with Francis Galton and William Herschel receiving recognition. Even though Galton and Herschel agreed that Faulds was the first to publish on the subject, Galton felt that his research was not properly supported by evidence.

Henry’s 10 Digit Classification System

In Bengal, Henry established the use of fingerprint impressions on criminal record forms. He then devised a fingerprint classification system that allowed fingerprints to be filed, searched, and tracked against thousands of other fingerprints. Henry’s technique was quickly adopted throughout British India. Within ten years, authorities throughout Europe and North America were using the system. Following the construction of his technique, Henry developed and published Classification and Uses of Fingerprints, a book that covered the subject in depth.

Henry Faulds died in 1930, never feeling he had received the recognition he deserved.

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