Personal Identification and Description 159
had on his life, converting his conception of travel from pleasure to purpose, Galton could not refrain from discussing finger-prints. It is almost impossible to overrate the energy Galton displayed in making the general public familiar with the idea of finger-print identification. We have not only a whole series of- letters to such journals as the Times and Nature, but Galton did not despise more popular organs-of communication. Thus there appeared a paper in the Sketch, entitled : "The Wonders of a Finger-Print," with a portrait of Galton (November 20, 1895), and another in Cassell's Saturday Journal, March 25, 1896. The latter took the form of an interview, and perhaps a few lines of it are still worth recalling
"There are about thirty characteristic points on an average in a finger-print," Mr Galton continued. " As I have said you will find no two pairs of fingers alike ; it is like comparing the ground plans of two different cities."
"But suppose an old and hardened criminal, whose finger-print was in your possession, hacked his fingers about with a-knife," I asked : "would that cause you confusion on his recapture?"
"Plenty of material for identification would still be left. He would never be able to obliterate all the ridges unless he cut off both his bands. But I don't want you to think that finger-prints are only of value for the identification of criminals. I want other people to take the finger-prints of their children for possible use in identification in after life."
"You remember what a stir there was when the rumour spread of a plot to kidnap the Duke of York's baby*. Think of all the national difficulties that would have arisen had he been lost and then professed to be found, but his identity doubted. Many people urged me at the time to propose that his finger-prints should be taken, but I hesitated to move seriously in the matter."
In the same year Galton read a paper entitled "Les empreintes digitales" at the Fourth International Congress of Criminal Anthropology j'. In this paper he briefly describes the facts he had demonstrated in his Finger Prints, then he turns to the question of nomenclature and classification, and notes his "shorthand" method of indexing. What, however, he particularly insists upon is the need for an international concordat in the matter of nomenclature and indexing so that it would be at once feasible to telegraph the finger-print formula of a suspected person. Galton proposed
"Qu'il soit fait des recherches dans les administrations de police des differentes nations pour determiner la nomenclature la plus convenable et les autres details relatifs aux empreintes digitales pour les services internationaux, c'est-a-dire pour communiquer, par lettre on telegraphe, et en termes generalement intelligibles, le signalement par les empreintes digitales des personnes soupgonnees." (p. 37.)
The noteworthy points about this paper are
(i) That as early as 1896 Galton had freed himself entirely from the anthropometric system; ' there is not a reference to bertillonage as a system of indexing, but the indexing is to depend entirely on finger-print classification.
(ii) That although the system - had only been a few years at work in England and was just started in India, Galton envisages an international
* The present Prince of Wales.
t Comptes-rendus, Session de Geneve, 1896, pp. 35-38.