Anyone who knows anything about crime knows one of the first things detectives look for at a crime scene is fingerprints, those unique markers left by the ridges on everyone’s fingers.
These impressions have been used as personal signatures for thousands of years, going as far back as 300 B.C. in China, where letters would be sealed with clay and impressed with the authors fingerprint.
And in the late 1800s, a medical missionary in Japan named Henry Faulds was the first to publish research in a journal about the uniqueness, and potential for individualization, of these ridges.
It was around this time that fingerprints, with their loops, arches, and whorls, became an identifying factor in criminal cases. Sir Francis Galton, a jack-of-all-trades in many things scientific, calculated that the probability of two whole fingerprints matching was somewhere around one in 64 billion — making your fingerprints uniquely yours out of the 7.2 billion people around the world.
While it’s debatable how accurate that is (not everyone’s had their fingerprints taken, obviously) and how well forensic scientists can identify a person with them, the general consensus is they’ve been more accurate than not.
This article was originally published by Medical Daily by Anthony Rivas