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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 5, 2012


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2012;308(9):846. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3180

Francis Galton published his “Finger-Prints”1 in 1892, and soon afterward his “Index of Finger-Prints.” His theory is that the chance of the finger-prints of two individuals being identical is less than one in sixty-four billions. If, therefore, two such prints are compared and found to be identical, nothing in human affairs can be surer than that they are the prints of the same person; if they are not identical they must belong to different persons. The chance of error here is infinitesimal, and is still further eliminated if prints of three or more fingers are taken. The only requisite seems to be that they be taken clearly enough to bring out all the lines. It is considered that these lines and prints are more enduring than any other marks of the body; they do not vary from youth to age; they persist even after death—at least until decomposition has set in. Injuries alone change them; but the scar on a cut that has been printed would be an additional identification.