This chapter explores the history behind the use of friction ridge impressions as a means of identification.
The use of friction ridge skin impressions as a means of identification has been around for thousands of years and has been used in several cultures. Friction ridge skin impressions were used as proof of a person's identity in China perhaps as early as 300 B.C., in Japan as early as A.D. 702, and in the United States since 1902. The Chinese were the first culture known to have used friction ridge impressions as a means of identification. In 1892, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a murder was solved using thumbprint evidence found at the crime scene. The two children of Francisca Rojas were found murdered. The Rojas murder case is considered to be the first homicide solved by fingerprint evidence, and Argentina became the first country to rely solely on fingerprints as a method of individualization. A criminal case in Bengal in 1898 is considered to be the first case in which fingerprint evidence was used to secure a conviction. The first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States was in 1902 by Dr. Henry P. de Forest of the New York Civil Service Commission. The use of the American Classification System and subsequent fingerprinting of all criminals in the state of New York was the first systematic use of fingerprinting for criminal record purposes in the United States. Study, research, and experimentation have led to and supported fingerprints as a means of individualization and a forensic tool of incalculable value. The research and practical knowledge accumulated over the course of many centuries well supports the science. This chapter provides a timeline in the development and use of friction ridge impressions as a means of identification through many cultures. Figures and references