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THE object of this chapter is to give an approximate numerical idea of the value of finger prints as a means of Personal Identification. Though the estimates that will be made are professedly and obviously far below the truth, they are amply sufficient to prove that the evidence afforded by finger prints may be trusted in a most remarkable degree.

Our problem is this : given two finger prints, which are alike in their minutiae, what is the chance that they were made by different persons?

The first attempt at comparing two finger prints would be directed to a rough general examination of their respective patterns. If they do not agree in being arches, loops, or whorls, there can be no doubt that the prints are those of different fingers, neither can there be doubt when they are distinct forms of the same general class. But to agree thus far goes only a short way towards establishing identity, for the number of patterns that are promptly distinguishable from one another is not large. My earlier inquiries showed this, when endeavouring to sort the prints

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