What is a fingerprint?
The palmar surface of the human hand is covered by a special kind of corrugated skin with narrow ridges known as papillary ridges. These minute ridges are studded with sweat pores and friction ridges are the result of the joining together of these protruded sweat pores. A fingerprint is the exact reproduction of the papillary ridges on the top of the phalange of a finger.
Specialities of fingerprints
Uniqueness - The order of arrangements of ridges and their characteristics (minutiae) are unique. The ridges on the finger, palm and sole of the foot of a person are for ever different and distinct from the rest of the world.
Permanency - According to Dr. Harold Cummins, ridges develop in the fourth month of the fetal stage and thier peculiarities remain unchanged throughout one's life span, until death and complete decomposition of the body.
How fingerprints became the best means for personal identification
Fingerprints are unique in nature and permanent from birth to death. The dimensions of the body; colour, quantity and quality of hair; skin; colour of eyes; the number and set of teeth; facial features; and handwriting, may all be altered when we grow. Your fingerprint patten as a whole may be altered in length and breadth, but the number of ridges, nature of the ridge characteristics and their relative position in a finger remain unchanged. It has been proven by Sir Francis Galton that the ridges are persistent from birth until they are destroyed by decomposition after death. Fingerprint science uses only the number of ridges, ridge characteristics and their relative position on the finger to prove one's identity.
Uses of fingerprints in our daily lives
- In crime investigation. Fingerprints are the cheapest and best means to prove the identity of a criminal. Most of the crime cases, like murder and theft cases, do not have an eye witness or other evidence. Even the testimony of an eye witness can be strongly challenged in a court of law. But one can never deny his presence at a crime scene if his fingerprints are collected there. A fingerprint itself is conclusive evidence.
- To prevent impersonation. Fingerprints can be included with social security cards, passports, driving licenses, bank accounts etc. to prevent unauthorised use.
- To prove the identity of an unidentified dead body. Fingerprint comparison is one way to prove the identity of a dead body when it is mutilated or decomposed, thus making difficult to identify the person. It becomes useful when a natural calamity occurs or a war breaks out. The mutilated bodies of the victims may be identified with the use of earlier recorded fingerprints.
In biometrics based electronic gadgets. Fingerprints plays a vital role in the manufacturing of the biometric based electronic gadgets, such as door security systems, finger impression locking systems, door access control systems, automatic safe boxes, fingerprint attendance systems, fingerprint security systems, etc.
Faces can lie, fingerprints never do
Most of the people in our society do not realise the importance of fingerprint science in modern life. Former Chief Superintendent of the Fingerprint Bureau in New Scotland Yard, Mr. Fred Cheril, has stated in his autobiography 'Fingerprints never lie', fingerprints invariably tell the truth. But they can do so only in their own language and one cannot hope to understand how they reveal the truth, without having some acquaintance with this unique science. Thousands of fingerprint identifications are made throughout the world on a daily basis.