This book shows that the use of fingerprints for the identification of criminals, first implemented in the British Empire, was not simply the work of any one creative individual, but rather the product of a lengthy process involving different people -- some in British India and some in England. The author draws upon a wide range of sources to provide an interesting, in-depth look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the development and implementation of the use of fingerprint identification, first in civil proceedings and later in criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions. The author provides a fascinating and readable tale about how a combination of theory, technology, individual personality and temperament, personal rivalry, creativity, serendipity, and practical problem solving influenced the development and implementation of early fingerprint identification. The author also does a good job of comparing the pros and cons of early fingerprinting techniques with those of alternative forms of identification used in the Nineteenth Century, including the Bertillon measurement system used by the French police.
This book is a good example of the value of taking an interdisciplinary approach to study and better understand the complexity of the act of invention, the relationship between science and technology, the role of the human element in science and technology, and the difficulties of turning ideas and concepts into practical and workable technologies. Readers interested in the interdisciplinary approach taken by this book might also consider taking a look at the following other books: Robert V. Bruce, Lincoln and the Tools of War; Bruce J. Hunt, Pursuing Power and Light: Technology and Physics from James Watt to Albert Einstein (Johns Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Science); Morton A. Myers, Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Major Medical Breakthroughs in the Twentieth Century; and James E. Tomayko, Computers in Space: Journeys With NASA.