The History of Biometrics in Criminal Justice



Created by Alphonse Bertillon who is considered the father criminal identification. Anthropometry was the first form of criminal identification consider reliable by his peers. It was adopted by most of Europe in 1884.

  • Anthropometry is based on the fact that human beings differ from each other in the exact body measurements and that the sum of these measurements yields a characteristic formula for each individual. However, in the beginning of the twentieth century, most European countries lost interest in anthropometry for a more sophisticated and consistent form of criminal identification called dactylography.

Dactylography: the study of fingerprints

1684: Dr. Nehemiah Grew observed pores and ridges in the hands and feet

  • Marcello Malpighi made similar observations two years later

1823: John Perkinje named nine standard types of fingerprint patterns and outlined a broad classification method

1850s to 1870s: William Herschel observed that the patterns of the lines on the fingerprints never changed for an individual

1880: Henry Faulds was able to identify a thief based on fingerprints left at the crime scene

1901: Edward Henry published Classification and Use of Finger Prints and is considered champion of the method fingerprinting.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or better known as DNA

A chemical blueprint that provides genetic information on almost all living organisms that provides irrefutable evidence when used in a criminal investigation.

In 1987, DNA typing was first used in England to help exonerate an innocent man, which subsequently led to the arrest and conviction the real killer.  This milestone was called the Enderby Cases.

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