Personal Identification and Description 143
I think, however, Galton had forgotten the date at which his attention was first drawn to finger-prints. He appears to have been collecting data before his lecture in 1888. But as early as 1880 Dr Faulds wrote a letter (February 16th) from Japan to Charles Darwin mentioning that the topic might have interest for him. The letter suggested that there were racial differences in finger-prints and enclosed two prints of palms of hands and of the five fingers. Darwin, strangely for him, rather overlooked the possible importance of the topic ; he was clearly busy and worried*. He forwarded the letter to Galton mentioning that it might have interest for anthropologists, and suggesting it had better be dealt with by the Anthropological Institute. Galton actually did present the letter to that Institute, and its officials appear to have then pigeon-holed it. Faulds' and Darwin's letters were unearthed many years later (April, 1894), after Galton had published his books, and returned by A. E. Peek to Galton. These letters I found in the Galtoniana.
Before this discovery I had no knowledge that Dr Faulds had written to Darwin in 1880, but it is clear that Galton sent the letter as suggested by Darwin to the Anthropological Institute. It cannot be said that any injustice was thus done either by Darwin or Galton. No busy scientist is bound to pay attention to the innumerable suggestions that may be made to him. Further, twenty years earlier, 1858, Sir William Herschel was using finger-prints for practical executive purposes in India, and lastly what is more to the point Dr Faulds sent much the same communication slightly later to Nature where it was printed on October 28, 18801, i.e. in the year of his letter to Darwin, and called forth a response from Sir William Herschel stating what he had himself achieved $. Galton refers to both letters not only in his Royal Institution lecture of 1888, but also in his Finger Prints. Before Galton issued his epoch-making papers of 1891, and his three books 1892 to 1895, no really substantial work had been published on finger-prints, since Purkenje's. A comparison of Galton's results with the two letters in Nature of 1880 will suffice to indicate how idle it is to attempt to belittle his claims.
* Darwin was failing in health in 1880 and correspondence with strangers had become a burden to him. See Life and Letters, Vol. in, p. 355 et seq.
t Vol. xxii, p. 605. It should be noticed that Dr Faulds states that he commenced his study of the "skin furrows of the hand" in the previous year, but he yet speaks of "the for-ever-unchangeable finger furrows of important criminals," and again in his letter to Darwin he states that photographs may grow unlike the original, but never the rugae. In other words he begs the question of permanence. At the same time he shows that he has ideas of the wide possible usefulness of the finger-print. He says that he had been studying the papillary ridges in monkeys, but appears to have overlooked the elaborate comparisons of these ridges among all kinds of primates including man in the paper by Alix : '° Recherches sur la disposition des lignes papillaires de la main et du pied," Annales des sciences naturelles (Zoologie), T. viii, pp. 295-362, T. ix, pp. 5-42 and corrections T. x, p. 374. The portion in T. ix contains excellent engravings of the hands and feet ridges of primates. Alix enlarges on the great variety of the finger-prints in man, and figures "double vortex," "loop" (Amande), "racket," "spiral," "spiral within circle" and simple "circle." In other words he was reaching and figuring a classification to enable him to compare man with other primates.
$ Nature, Nov. 25,-1880, Vol. xxiii, p. 76. Herschel recorded a twenty-two years' use of finger-prints and gives some evidence of their permanence.