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176   Life and Letters of Francis Galton

by order of [I on] the camp sutler. To guard against forgery he signed his name [I wrote the amount] across the impression made by his finger upon the order, after first pressing it on his office pad. He was good enough to send me the duplicate of one of these cheques made out in favour of a man who bore the ominous name of 'Lying Bob' [see Fig. 30 on p. 175]. The impression took the place of scroll work on an ordinary cheque; it was in violet aniline ink, and looked decidedly pretty. From time to time sporadic instances like these are met with, but none are comparable in importance to the regular and official employment made of finger-prints by Sir William Herschel, during more than a quarter of a century in Bengal. I was exceedingly obliged to him for much valuable information when first commencing this study, and have been almost wholly indebted to his kindness for the materials used in this book for proving the persistence of lineations throughout life.

"Sir William Herschel has presented me with one of the two original ' Contracts' in Bengali, dated 1858, which suggested to his mind the idea of using this method of identification'. It was so difficult to obtain credence to the signatures of the natives, that he thought he would use the signature of the hand itself, chiefly with the intention of frightening the man who made it from afterwards denying his formal act ; however, the impression proved so good that Sir W. Herschel became convinced that the same method might be further utilised. He finally introduced the use of finger-prints in several departments at Hooghly in 1877, after seventeen years' experience of the value of the evidence they afforded. A too brief account of his work was given by him in Nature (Vol. xxui, p. 23, Nov. 25, 1880). He mentions there that he had been taking finger marks as sign-manuals for more than twenty years, and had introduced them for practical purposes in several ways in India with marked benefit. They rendered attempts to repudiate signatures quite hopeless. Finger-prints were taken of Pensioners to prevent their personation by others after death ; they were used in the office for Registration of Deeds, and at a gaol where each prisoner had to sign with his finger. By comparing the prints of persons then living, with their prints taken twenty years previously, he considered he had proved that the lapse of at least that period made no change sufficient to affect the utility of the plan. He informs me that he submitted, in 1877, a report in semi-official form to the Inspector-General of Gaols, asking to be allowed to extend the process; but no result followed. In 1881, at the request of the Governor of the gaol at Greenwich (Sydney), he sent a description of the method, but no further steps appear to have been taken there.

"If the use of finger-prints ever becomes of general importance, Sir William Herschel must be regarded as the first who devised a feasible method for regular use, and afterwards officially adopted it." (pp. 26-29.)

I have cited this long passage because I wish to give evidence that Galton did ample justice to his predecessors, more justice than has since been done to his own work j-. Galton never claimed to have invented the idea of identification by finger-prints. What he did do was to take up the matter from the scientific standpoint to establish certain principles and the practical methods of operating them. It was his publications and his energetic demonstration of the value of finger-print identification, not occasional newspaper diatribes, which led to its adoption by the English Prison Service, and ultimately to its acceptance throughout the civilised world. Much solid

* One is reproduced on our Plate V, p. 146 and the other in Sir William Herschel's The Origin of Finger Printing.

t "In discussing the true natural history of the minute ridges upon the fingers Galton goes no further than did the first physiologist of note who drew attention to their presence. This was Nehemiah Grew." Louis Robinson in North American Review, May 15, 1905. Again: "Mr Galton distinctly says in his Finger Prints, p. 2: `My attention was first drawn to the ridges in 1888,' etc. It is not a little remarkable to my mind that that date should so nearly coincide with the period when I was interesting Sir Wollaston Franks, of the British Museum, and other scientific authorities in the importance of this means of identification." Birmingham Post, May 16, 1905. Dr Faulds cites only the first words of Galton's paragraph on p. 2. For the full citation see our p. 142.

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