The human body is a marvelous and wondrous entity that many of us don't know enough about. How many of us have taken a good look at our bodies other than giving them a cursory look in the mirror? When you were in school, did you ever take a hair follicle and place it under a microscope? Mmmm, pretty interesting stuff, huh! Did you ever take a close inspection of your extremities, hands and feet? Well, it's never too late to take a second look. Take a look at the fingers of your hands. Did you know that those patterns you see on the bulbs on the inside of your four fingers and your thumb are called ridges? These ridges have a very special meaning to each one of us because they are unique to us and only us.
These ridges have a definition uniquely different in every individual, and it is this unique pattern that separates each one of us from the other. While these ridge contours are classified into three major group patterns, each of them exemplifying the same characteristics as others in the group, it is the variations within these patterns of ridges which make every person's fingers uniquely different and unduplicated. If the fingers of two individuals were juxtaposed, one could probably, with the naked eye, distinguish the two sets of fingers simply by observing the different patterns. However, if one starts to compare any given set of fingers with billions of others, it gets much more onerous. Forensic studies have concluded that if you take finger impressions with black ink on a white background paper, the unique outline of the ridges are clear and apparent. Thus, we have the evolution of the fingerprint as a means of identification.
Over the past century and a quarter, fingerprinting has come to the forefront as a means of personal identification. Fingerprinting has proven over the years to be unwavering in its accuracy and cost feasible regarding its implementation. There have been some other methods that have been employed in order to make personal identifications, particularly in the latter
part of the nineteenth century when a French anthropologist by the name of Alphonse Bertillon designed a system of personal identification based on a system of measurements of certain bones in the human body, such as the femur. These measurements were reduced to a formula which, theoretically, was that person's personal representation, and no one else's. This theory went down the tubes in 1903 when two men with the exact same name in Kansas had measurements close enough according to the Bertillion methodology that they were misidentified as being the same person. They were both prisoners at Leavenworth, but a fingerprint impression from both parties identified these two men as two separate individuals.
Fingerprinting wrested the personal identification methodology title from the Bertillion method and has been the undisputed, and unchallenged, world champion of personal identification ever since. Over the years, the employment of the use of fingerprinting has become synonymous with criminal identification. Actually, this is a little bit of a misconception, and fingerprinting has a wide variety of uses. Fingerprints have been used to identify missing persons and those who have suffered bouts of amnesia. Fingerprinting has even been able to identify deceased persons who, heretofore, had been unidentifiable.
Today, one of the greatest usages of fingerprinting is in the identification of children. It is common practice that children at school age are fingerprinted by experts at the local police precinct and their prints become a way of identifying the child, if necessary. If there ever is a case for emergency identification of one of these children, then the fingerprint process will be infallible in its findings. As forensic scientists continue to study the employment of DNA as a means of identification, fingerprinting remains the most accurate and cost effective way to date of ensuring personal identification. Fingerprinting indefatigably holds the crown of personal identification champ!