Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case . . .

Colin Beavan. Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science. Hyperion, 2001.


A very interesting read, especially for a true crime and mystery buff. What stood out for me was the connection Beavan makes between urbanization and the need to devise reliable means of identification. In rural areas and smaller villages, everyone knew everyone. Once rural populations fled to the cities, no one knew anyone else. Sometimes police officers or prison guards would recognize previously convicted felons, but even this, as with eye-witness identification, is often unreliable. The French (Bertillon) began a system of measurements, but classification was difficult, too difficult for most policemen "in the field." A doctor working in Japan (Faulds) and an official working in India (Herschel) devised ways of taking and classifying fingerprints. Then the task became one of convincing police and the courts to accept prints as evidence, and of claiming and awarding credit. 

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