24th March 1930

Fingerprinting pioneer dies relatively unknown

Henry Faulds was born in North Ayrshire and, after studying at University of Glasgow went to India on missionary work for the Church of Scotland. Two years later, his work took him to Japan.

His work there saw him found schools and stem the spread of infectious diseases while he indulged his interest in archaeology. This interest led to his involvement in fingerprinting when, on an archaeological dig, he noticed that ancient pottery often bore patterns imprinted by their creators’ fingers. Further examination of these, and of the fingers of his fellow archaeologists convinced him that each person’s prints were unique.

A man proved innocent

His idea was proved when one of his colleagues at the hospital where he worked in Japan was arrested on suspicion of theft. Faulds was able to show, upon analysis of his fingerprints and those found at the scene, that he was innocent, but it remained an uphill battle. When Faulds returned to Britain and approached the London Metropolitan Police with his idea, it showed no interest.

Japanese police were quicker to see its benefits, and adopted fingerprinting as a means of ruling out suspects during Faulds’ lifetime. However, upon his death in 1930, aged 86, fingerprinting was still not widely used as a forensic tool, and he would never know how important it later came to solving crime.



Other events that occured in March

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