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August 1961

A Quick Look at Dermatoglyphics

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Dermatology, Northwestern University Medical School and Michael Reese Hospital.

Arch Dermatol. 1961;84(2):199-212. doi:10.1001/archderm.1961.01580140025003

Introduction  In Mark Twain's book, Life on the Mississippi, the character Carl Ritter tells about an old Frenchman "who had been a prison keeper for thirty years and he told me that there is one thing about a person which never changes from the cradle to the grave —the lines of the ball of the thumb—and he said that these lines were never exactly alike in the thumbs of any two human beings." Ten years later Mark Twain published Puddin'head Wilson, which is a remarkable story based upon the identification of fingerprints during the court trial; "Puddin'head's" address to the jury is still recognized as "one of the finest explanations of the logical basis of fingerprint identification ever given, either in fiction or life."12 Through these 2 books Mark Twain introduced fingerprints into fiction and was instrumental in arousing people's interest in this new field, by virtue of which