Finger Prints - History

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In its endeavour to improve its skills and capacity, the human race spares no effort to discover tools, assistance, and techniques. At IMI Academy Limited, we view the analysis of Fingerprints as an integral part of this overall effort. Here we present a quick tour of the field and its development over the years.


Improving the capabilities of the human race was the central interest of the work of Sir Francis Galton. He happened to be a first cousin of Charles Darwin, the pioneering evolutionist. Sir Galton had written a work on family trees and inter-breeding. He also evinced a keen interest in fingerprints. His initial interest was in their use for the purpose of infallible identification, but his curiosity was furthered when he came across J.Purkinje's work. He sought to develop on J.Purkinje's nine finger patterns and evolved a terminology for the field of dactylography.
The Czech biologist, J Purkinje was the first to formally classify fingerprint patterns and he created a nine pattern system. J.Purkinje was the man who developed the world's first Department of Physiology and the first-ever Physiology lab at the University of Breslau, around the late 1830s. He had introduced the terms "plasma" and "protoplasm", and discovered sweat glands in 1833. Purkinje also has a crater on the moon named after him. Such was the versatility of the trailblazer in the field of fingerprint patterns.
Inspired by Purkinje, but in line with his own interest in families, Sir Galton examined hereditary aspects of fingerprints, compared hands of twins, and studied related and unrelated individuals. The subject of Fingerprints had been referred to Sir Galton by none other than Charles Darwin, to whom, an expert Dr. H. Faulds had written to share his fingerprint classification system.
At IMI Academy Limited, we note the strong Indian connection with the advancement of this field. W. J. Herschel who published a paper in the late 19th century in the journal "Nature" reported the use of the fingerprints for identifying people, and upon the experience of doing so in Bengal. It was in India that the popular Henry system (named after Sir Edward R. Henry, a police officer stationed in India) was developed which spread to most English-speaking countries.
In the Henry classification, there are three basic fingerprint patterns: the loop, the whorl, and the arch which are respectively manifested in 60-65%, 30-35% and 5% of all fingerprints. Now these patterns can be classified in more complex ways and subdivided further, such as arches can be seen as plain arches or tented arches, loops can be ulnar or radial, and whorls can be plain, accidental, peacock's eye, composite, double loop etc.
The heritage literature in India discusses three types of ridge patterns: the Shankh (conch-shell), the Chakra (the wheel) and the Shakti (the energy). Respectively, they correspond to the ulnar and radial loop, the whorl, and the composite.
Our own team of analysts and counsellors is committed to deepening the knowledge, particularly that of application in the field, so that strong testimonials from beneficiaries will draw more people to the advantages of consulting the Dermatoglyphs.
Dermatoglyphs is a word suggested by Professor H Cummins about eighty years ago, and he presented it at the annual conference of the American Association of Anatomists. It describes the scientific fields of study of the palmar and plantar ridges of the hands and feet. Professor H Cummins wrote a book in 1943, titled Finger Prints, Palms and Soles, which turned out to be a seminal landmark in the field of Dermatoglyphics. Professor H Cummins and Rebecca W. Kennedy had also presented a paper, "Purkinje's observations on fingerprints and other skin features" which was published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
Following in his book's illustrious tradition, several writers have offered their expertise and fruits of research to the world. It is important to acknowledge their contribution. In the course of their dedicated study, these writers cultivated an eye for dermatoglyphic detail and made very fine observations. Their practice over decades also enhanced their powers of judging strengths and weaknesses in individuals. We will here look at only a few of them, while there are a great number of meritorious workers in the field.
While we just mentioned the ancient Indian dissertations on the subject, we also recall the Wu Hsing method from China which was quite a sophisticated system. The Wu Hsing method combines a number of parameters : the significance for each finger, the type of print, its direction and the epicenter. This yields a rich depiction of an individual's propensities and tendencies. And each human individual is truly unique, and as the 13th century Persian physician Rashid-al-Din Hamadani commented on the Chinese system of fingerprint identification : "Their experience demonstrates that no two individuals have fingers exactly alike."

In the modern age,the English palmist Noel Jaquin studied character traits for five different patterns viz. the arch, the tented arch, the loop, the whorl, and the composite. He associated a set of qualities with each of them.
      • The Arch: Over cautious, not confiding. Keeping to oneself. A defensive outlook. Grudging and ungenerous.
      • The Tented Arch: The emotional fan who adores art but is perhaps not gifted himself or lacks the strength of commitment. Easily swayed by impulses and by a sense of the grandiose. Given to a sense of high drama.
      • The Loop: Responsive and malleable. Can change quickly but somewhat inattentive.
      • The Whorl: Very determinedly individualistic. Doggedly pursuing their own goal at any cost. High degree of autonomy.
      • The Composite: Very earthy but also fault-finding. Rooted to tangible matters and quite worldly wise. Somewhat inflexible


We here consider a few more notable authors and commentators who have advanced their own perspective or otherwise surveyed the available literature in Dermatoglyphics. They have in their own ways enriched the discipline with their intellect and devotion. Darlene Hansen compared the Chinese view with the classic perspective of Professor H. Cummins. She noted that the whorls symbolise the yang (masculine) element while the loops symbolise the yin (feminine) element in Chinese thought. The whorl indicates someone who can be ruthless in pursuing their end, while the loop is further classified into ulnar loop (complacent people) and radial loop (stronger individualism). Loops can be termed radial or ulnar, depending on the side of the hand toward which the tail points. Radial loops start on the thumb-side of the finger (and indicates more resolute people), the side closer to the radius, while Ulnar loops start on the side closer to the ulna, the lower arm bone. The differentiation between the Plain Arch and the Tented Arch may also be noted. The plain arch has a consistency of flow from one side of the finger to the other, cascading upward slightly like a wave. In the Tented Arch, the ridges in the center are not continuous and adjacent ones converge and point upward like in a tent cone. Dr. Scheimann studied the indications of abnormality that can be inferred by looking at fingerprints. He discovered that loops and whorls are most common, and the most frequently seen palmar pattern is the tented type. For instance, he declared that having the same fingerprint on all fingers (both hands) is a sign of a congenital defect. He also suggested other danger signals associated with neurotic issues - ill-formed ridges etc.

Dr. Scheimann also added to the pattern descriptions in terms of traits given by Noel Jaquin.
        • Arch:Unsure and plagued by self-doubt. Becomes apprehensive of making mistakes.
        • Tented Arch:A sense of aesthetic proportion and balance. Harmonising with their surroundings, but also prone to being affected by them.
        • Loops: Six or more loops signifies adaptability, easygoingness, and also a sign of being affected too readily by others' moods. Being good at many things can lead to being a master-of-none.
        • Whorl:Individualism, self-determination, and willing to buck the odds. Composites: Indecisive, and engaged in circular reasoning.
In a sense, Dr. Scheimann can also be said to follow the "thumb-rule" wherein in the absence of a dominant pattern, he inspected the thumb pattern to yield the overall personality.

About three decades ago, Carol White in her book offered her take on some of the above.
      • Arch:One who views a meaningful, directed world which they accept and stay objective about.
      • Loops: Action-oriented individual who wishes to "make a difference", either to express their care or to be at the center of things.
      • Whorl:Discerning and focussed person.
      • The compositeA discovery-oriented person but with a sense of caution.
      • To the five fingerprints inspected and explained by Noel Jaquin, Sasha Fenton and Malcolm Wright added the Peacock's Eye in their discussion in 1986 publication, and followed up with a simplified presentation a decade later. The arch represents the introvert tendency. Arches signify withdrawal, and isolationist behavior and are found in ordinary people with ordinary lives. The Czech biologist, J Purkinje was the first to formally classify fingerprint patterns and he created a nine pattern system. J.Purkinje was the man who developed the world's first Department of Physiology and the first-ever Physiology lab at the University of Breslau, around the late 1830s. He had introduced the terms "plasma" and "protoplasm", and discovered sweat glands in 1833. Purkinje also has a crater on the moon named after him. Such was the versatility of the trailblazer in the field of fingerprint patterns. Fenton and Wright interpret the tented arch to indicate someone who is idealistic and excitable but also highly susceptible to being discouraged by either unfavourable circumstance or by opponents.It also can represent flair and aptitude for acquiring knowledge. This pair see loops as indicating a quick mind, dependable and a good team player. There could be a tendency to move on speedily from one activity or engagement to another.The double loop betrays the person who wishes to be in everyone's good books. The person with many whorls is someone who can be dispassionate and objective in decisions, but who needs a subordinate partner and not an equal. On the index finger, the whorl signifies someone who doesn't empathise with others and is narrowly focused on themselves. On the middle finger too, it indicates being engrossed with oneself. A whorl on the ring finger is a sign of a person who will impose their preferences on others and will not be flexible. On the little finger it depicts an individual who is on a solitary quest. An outstanding researcher in recent times has been P. G. Tesla who has recognised and defined thirtysix types of fingerprints and twenty types of dermal patterns. Apart from whorl, loop ( ulnar and radial), arch and tented arch, he cites coil, tri-radius, pocket loop, opposing loops, entwined loops, cross patch etc. Tesla's comprehensive interpretation of all the patterns he describes is contained in his impressive book "Complete Science of Hand Reading". This fascinating field has evoked the interest of layman, professional, and specialist. It promises to yield more of its secrets and benefits in the future as many enquiries and observations are underway. At MY MI Academy Limited, our motivation is to share the information with our fraternity, associates and well-wishers. Valuable updates will be made herein from time to time.

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