28 Jul: Fingerprints Go Legit

#throwbackthursday William James Herschel, a British colonial magistrate in India, first used fingerprints as a means of identification on 28th July, 1858 – not to catch a criminal, but to implement two-step verification on a contract.

In Britain, the technology was first used to solve the theft of some billiard balls in 1902. These days, it’s been largely usurped by DNA, but remains a staple of the policing repertoire.

In this episode, Rebecca, Arion and Olly consider whether ears might be better criminal identifiers than fingers; reveal the history of the mugshot; and explain why koalas are our secret hand doubles… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Press Down Firmly, You’re in Our Files Now’ (WIRED, 2011): https://www.wired.com/2011/07/0728india-fingerprint-identification/

• ‘The Blackburn child killer and rapist who changed criminal forensics forever’ (LancsLive, 2019): https://www.lancs.live/news/lancashire-news/blackburn-child-killer-rapist-who-17118836

• The Bertillon System of Criminal Identification in use by the Police in the 1910s (Kinolibrary Archive Film collections):

‘Why am I hearing a rerun?’ We’re planning exciting new things for the autumn, and we’re banking that most of you haven’t heard it yet. So stick with us.