Personal Identification and Description 147
Inspector-General of Jails in Bengal], known only to literature * as `My dear B-' and is luminously certified as `True copy of office copy,' but by whom certified is not stated." (Guide to Finger Print Identification, p. 36.) It was clearly impossible to deal patiently with a controversialist of this type, who first demands to see a document and when it is exhibited waits ten years before attempting to throw discredit on it! I have rarely known Galton moved. He certainly was moved on this occasion. He wrote the notice of Faulds' book which appeared in Nature, Vol. LXXII, Supplement, p. iv (October 19, 1905). Anyone who has read the literature on this topic up to 1905 can only agree with what Galton states. If it is severe on Dr Faulds, the severity was warranted. I cite a portion of it
"Dr Faulds was for some years a medical officer in Japan, and a zealous and original investigator of finger-prints. He wrote an interesting letter about them in Nature, October 28, 1880, dwelling upon the legal purposes to which they might be applied, and he appears to be the first person who published anything, in print, on this subject. However his suggestions of introducing the use of finger-prints fell flat. The reason that they did not attract attention was presumably that he supported them by no convincing proofs of three elementary propositions on which the suitability of finger-prints for legal purposes depends : It was necessary to adduce strong evidence of the, long since vaguely alleged, permanence of those ridges on the bulbs of the fingers that print their distinct lineations. It was necessary to adduce better evidence than opinions based on mere inspection of the vast variety of minute details of those markings, and finally, for purposes of criminal investigation, it was necessary to prove that a large collection could be classified with sufficient precision to enable the officials in charge of it to find out speedily whether a duplicate of any set of prints that might be submitted to them did or did not exist in the collection. Dr Faulds had no part in establishing any one of these most important preliminaries f. But though his letter of 1880 was, as above mentioned, the first printed communication on the subject, it appeared years after the first public and official use of finger-prints had been made by Sir William Herschel in India, to whom the credit of originality that Dr Faulds desires to monopolise is far more justly due....
"The question of the priority of dates is placed beyond doubt, by the reprint of the office copy of Sir William's 'demi-official' letter of August 15, 1877, to the then Inspector of Prisons in Bengal. This letter covers all that is important in Dr Faulds' subsequent communication of 1880, and goes considerably further. The method introduced by Sir Wm. Herschel, tentatively at first as a safeguard against personation, had gradually been developed and tested, both in the jail and in the registering office, during a period from ten to fifteen years before 1877 as stated in the above quoted letter to the Inspector of Prisons.
"The failure of Sir Wm. Herschel's successor, and of others at that time in authority in Bengal, to continue the development of the system so happily begun, is greatly to be deplored, but it can be explained on the same grounds as those mentioned above in connection with Dr Faulds. The writer of these remarks can testify to the occasional incredulity in the early 'nineties concerning the permanence of the ridges, for it happened to himself while staying at the house of a once distinguished physiologist, who was the writer when young of an article on the skin in a first class encyclopaedia, to hear strong objections made to that opinion. His
* The India List for 1876-1877 would have at once informed Dr Faulds that Mr Beverley was, in August 1877, Inspector-General of Prisons in Bengal. Herschel also wrote to the Registrar-General, Sir James Bourdillon, who later expressed regret that he had allowed the suggestion to slip through his fingers. See Sir William J. Herschel, The Origin of Finger Printing, Oxford, 1916, p. 25.
t Actually after his letter to Nature of 1880, he published no scientific contribution to the subject before Galton took it up in 1888; be wasted eight years. Then Galton published his books and papers, and only in 1905 does Dr Faulds issue a work which could be even considered a scientific contribution to the subject, and then of so acrimonious a character that it is of negligible value.