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Fingerprints. Chapter 14. History of Fingerprinting. History of Fingerprinting. Alphonse Bertillon 1883 – First systematic attempt at personal identification Used portrait parl é - verbal description of perpetrator’s physical characteristics and dress provided by an eyewitness

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Chapter 14

History of fingerprinting

History of Fingerprinting

History of fingerprinting1

History of Fingerprinting

Alphonse Bertillon

  • 1883 – First systematic attempt at personal identification

  • Used portrait parlé- verbal description of perpetrator’s physical characteristics and dress provided by an eyewitness

  • And used anthropometry – a system of precise body measurements

  • System used for over two decades

History of fingerprinting2

History of Fingerprinting

Henry Fauld

  • 1880 – Scottish physician published articles suggesting that skin ridge patterns could be important in identification of criminals

    • Explained how fingerprints were used to solve a crime

    • Offered to help set up system at Scotland Yard; offered rejected

History of fingerprinting3

History of Fingerprinting

Francis Galton

  • 1892 – Published the textbook Fingerprints

    • Discussed anatomy of fingerprint and methods of recording

    • Introduced the three patterns – loop, whorl, and arch

    • Demonstrated that no two prints were identical and that prints do not change over a lifetime

  • British government adopted fingerprinting as a supplement to the Bertillon system

History of fingerprinting4

History of Fingerprinting

Dr. Juan Vucetich

  • 1891 – Argentinian police officer

  • Devised a classification system for prints so that they can be filed and searched easily

  • Although revised, it is still used in many Spanish speaking countries

History of fingerprinting5

History of Fingerprinting

Sir Edward Richard Henry

  • 1897

    • Proposed another type of classification system adopted by Scotland Yards

    • Most English speaking countries use a modified version

History of fingerprinting6

History of Fingerprinting

Will West

  • 1903

  • Proved Bertillon’s system inaccurate

  • Convict arrived at prison to find another William West with the same body measurements and similar physical characteristics

  • Fingerprints were use to distinguish prisoners

History of fingerprints

History of Fingerprints

New York City Civil Service Commission

  • 1901

  • First systematic and official use of fingerprints for personal identification

  • Used to certify all civil service applications

Fundamental principles of fingerprints

Fundamental Principles of Fingerprints

A Fingerprint is an Individual Characteristic; No Two Fingerprints Have Yet Been Found to Possess Identical Ridge Characteristics.

  • Galton calculated the possible existence of 64 billion different fingerprints!

  • Ridge Characteristics, also known as minutiae, are ridge endings, enclosures, and other ridge details that must match in two fingerprints in order for their common origin to be established

  • In judicial proceedings, a point-by-point comparison must be demonstrated

  • There are as many as 150 ridge characteristics on the average fingerprint

Fundamental principles of fingerprints1

Fundamental Principles of Fingerprints

A Fingerprint Will Remain Unchanged During an Individual’s Lifetime

  • The pattern of ridges determined by the dermal papillae, the boundary between the first two layers of skin

  • Pores are present on the top layer releasing sweat and oil – this can be transferred to a surface when touched leaving an invisible impression – latent fingerprints

Fundamental principles of fingerprints2

Fundamental Principles of Fingerprints

Fingerprints Have General Ridge Patterns that Permit Them to be Systematically Classified.

  • All fingerprints are divided into three classes on the basis of their general pattern: loops, whorls, and arches

Refer to Fingerprinting 101 to identify the various classes of fingerprints.

Ridge characteristics

Ridge Characteristics

  • The individuality of a fingerprint is not determined by its general shape but by careful study of its ridge characteristicsor its minutiae

  • No two fingers have yet been found to possess identical ridge characteristics

Ridge characteristics1

Ridge Characteristics

  • Ridge Dots

  • Bifurcations

  • Trifurcations

  • Ending Ridge

  • Ridge Crossing

  • Enclosures (Lakes)

  • Short Ridges (Islands)

  • Spurs (Hooks)

  • Bridges

Ridge dots

Ridge Dots

  • An isolated ridge unit whose length approximates its width in size             



The point at which one friction ridge divides into two friction ridges

Double Bifurcation     Opposed Bifurcation



  • The point at which one friction ridge divides into three friction ridges

Ending ridge

Ending Ridge

  • A single friction ridge that terminates within the friction ridge structure

Ridge crossing

Ridge Crossing

  •    A point where two ridge units intersect       

Enclosures lakes

Enclosures (Lakes)

  • A single friction ridge that bifurcates and rejoins after a short course and continues as a single friction ridge

Short ridges islands

Short Ridges (Islands)

  • Friction ridges of varying lengths

Spurs hooks

Spurs (Hooks)

  • A bifurcation with one short ridge branching off a longer ridge



  • A connecting friction ridge between parallel running ridges, generally right angles

Automated fingerprint identification system

Automated Fingerprint Identification System

  • The AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) uses automatic scanning devices that convert the image of a fingerprint into digital minutiae that contain data showing ridges at their points of termination and the branching of ridges into two ridges (bifurcations).

  • AFIS has brought about a fundamental change to the way criminal investigators operate, allowing them to spend less time developing suspect lists and more time investigating the suspects generated by the computer.

Types of prints

Types of Prints

  • Visible Prints are made when the fingers touch a surface after the ridges have been in contact with a colored material such as blood, paint, grease or ink.

  • Plastic prints are ridge impressions left on a soft material such as putty, wax, soap or dust.

  • Latent Prints are impressions caused by the transfer of body perspiration or oils present on finger ridges to the surface of an object.

Locating latent prints

Locating Latent Prints

  • Locating latent prints requires the use of techniques that will make the prints visible.

  • Latent prints on hard and nonabsorbent surfaces (e.g., glass, mirror, tile and painted surfaces require the use of powders and/or Super Glue to make the prints visible.

  • Prints on soft or porous material (e.g., paper, cardboard, cloth) generally require treatment with one or more chemicals to make them visible.



  • Sometimes the most difficult aspect of fingerprint examination can be the location of the print.

  • Recent advances in fingerprint technology have led to the development of an ultraviolet image converter for the purpose of detecting latent prints.

  • This device, called the Reflected Ultraviolet Imaging System (RUVIS), can locate prints on most nonabsorbent surfaces without the aid of chemical or powder treatments.

  • RUVIS detects the print in its natural state by aiming UV light at the surface suspected of containing prints. When the UV light strikes the fingerprint, the light is reflected back to the to the viewer, differentiating the print from its background surface.

  • The transmitted UV light is then converted into visible light by an image intensifier. Once located in this manner, the crime-scene investigator can develop the print in the most appropriate manner.

Other techniques for detecting prints

Other techniques for detecting prints

  • Iodine Fuming is a technique for visualizing latent fingerprints by exposing them to iodine vapors.

    • Sublimation is a physical change from the solid directly to the gas state.

  • Ninhydrin is a chemical reagent used to develop latent fingerprints on porous material by reacting with amino acids in perspiration.

Other techniques for detecting prints1

Other techniques for detecting prints

  • Physical developer: a silver-based reagent formulated to develop latent fingerprints on porous surfaces.

  • Super Glue Fuming: A technique used for visualizing latent fingerprints on non-porous surfaces by exposing them to cyanoacrylate vapors; named for the commercial product “Super Glue”.

Preservation of developed prints

Preservation of Developed Prints

  • Once the print has been visualized, it must be permanently preserved.

    1. Photographs are taken

    • Provide an overall view of print

    • Provide view in respect to other evidence

      2. Prints are preserved

    • Small items easily transported

      have prints covered with cellophane

      to protect it

    • Larger items can have the print





Digital imaging

Digital Imaging

  • Digital Imaging is the process by which a picture is converted into a digital file.

  • When fingerprints are lifted from a crime scene, they are often not in perfect condition. This makes their analysis very difficult.

  • With the help of digital imaging software, fingerprints can now be enhanced for the most accurate and comprehensive analysis.

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