Monday, May 4, 2009

Fingerprinting Genius Henry Faulds Is The Victorian Of The Month

From the Department of Too Little, Too Late
Henry Faulds (b. 1843)

Born in Beith, North Ayrshire, Henry Faulds (clerk, medical student, missionary, police surgeon) went to Japan. There, he learned Japanese, taught university students and founded the Tokyo Institute for the Blind. He also founded the Tuskiji Hospital in Tokyo. Then, he became the surgeon superintendent of it.

So where does the fingerprinting come in? In the 1870s, in Japan, Henry Faulds attended archeological digs. He found pieces of pottery that had the fingerprints of the people who had made them. Pottery was nice, Faulds thought, but what Faulds really thought was that you could use fingerprints to catch crooks! He wrote to Nature magazine! He wrote to Charles Darwin! In 1886, Scotland Yard declined his offer.

Faulds returned to London; in 1930 he died, bitter that no one recognized his work.