Facts about fingerprints

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In a world where every person is believed to have at least one doppelganger, imagine the chaos that would occur during an identification process.

Murder suspects would simply point fingers at their look-alike leaving investigators clueless and exasperated.

A mother with identical twins would have big trouble trying to identify one twin from the other.

Legal property documents can be forged with ease and the case would go on forever, due to lack of identification proofs.

While I sit here typing out this article, my mind is brimming with millions of confusing situations that would occur, in the absence of fingerprints. To put them in short, everything spells “Identity Crisis”.

So what is it that makes fingerprints so important? The 12 facts given below, answer this frequently asked question.

1.No two fingerprints are identical.

Just as every human being’s DNA patterns differ, so do their fingerprints. Fingerprints are formed as a result of environmental and genetic factors in the amniotic fluid during fetal stage. While two fingerprints may be similar, they are never identical.

2. Method of identification of fingerprints is called dactyloscopy.

Dactyloscopy, or the method of fingerprint identification generally refers to their analysis and classification based on observed patterns. The combinations of patterns are different, making every fingerprint unique.

3. Fingerprints are formed even before you are born.

Fingerprints start forming during a fetus’ third month of development. During this time, the pattern of ridges starts appearing and is fully formed at the end of the sixth month.

4. Fingerprints help grip objects.

According to scientists’ studies, the ridges that form a fingerprint evolved as a mechanism to grip onto rough surfaces. They are also believed to improve surface contact in wet conditions.

5. Based on the pattern of ridges, fingerprints are of 3 types.

There are three most basic fingerprint patterns:  arches, loops and whorls.  In an arch pattern, ridges run from one side to the other of the pattern. In the loop pattern, the ridges curve around in different directions.  In the whorl pattern, ridges make an almost concentric curve.

6. Koala’s fingerprints are similar to humans’.

Though Koalas and humans have had no overlapping genetics for the last 125-150 million years, scientists believe that it is due to convergent evolution that the two species share similar fingerprints.

7. In 1900, fingerprints began to be used to identify people.

Though the actual use of fingerprints for identification dates back to ancient times, it was more widely adopted after 1903, when the New York police department and Federal Bureau of Police installed this system of identification.

8.First person to use fingerprints as means of identification was Sir William Herschel.

Herschel was the first European to use fingerprints as means of identification. He was working for the Indian Civil Service in India as a British officer, and used fingerprints on contracts for identification.

9. Fingerprints are caused by sweat and are detected by the forensic scientist using dyes, chemicals or lasers.

Fingerprints are usually left behind on smooth surfaces due to the sweat and natural oils that line the fingertips. Based on the surface, different techniques are used to detect these prints. The most common techniques involve the use of dyes and chemicals.

10. It is impossible to obtain fingerprints from fabric.

The sweat and oil that usually leaves behind a fingerprint is absorbed by the fabric thus leaving no obvious finger mark on it.

11.Mark twain was the first author to use finger print evidence in his crime novel.

Mark Twain’s book, “Life on the Mississippi” published in 1883, narrates a story of murder that was solved by the fingerprint evidence technique.

12.Fingerprints are widely used in forensics.

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