Leaving a Fingerprint on Society

Henry Faulds was born in 1843 in England to a family with limited resources. Forced to leave school to help support his family, he was employed as a clerk. He was eventually able to earn enough money to go to college, eventually becoming a physician.

Henry had a career of service beginning in India where he provided medical care to the poor. Later he would undertake a medical mission to Japan. While in Japan, he was able to facilitate a number of improvements in medical practices including:

  • Introduction of antiseptic practices
  • Creation of a society for the blind
  • Halting of a rabies epidemic
  • Aiding in stopping the spread of cholera
  • Curing a plague infecting fish
  • Creating lifeguard stations to prevent drowning.

It was a trip with an archaeologist friend that led to the discovery that he is best known for today. He discovered that the craftsmen who made the clay relics left images of their fingers on the objects they made. When he noticed that the images were all different, he developed the theory that individuals have unique fingerprint patterns. He used this theory to convince the police that the man they arrested was not responsible for a local burglary.

Henry tried to promote his fingerprint identification system. What followed was a dispute over who first reorganized the uniqueness of fingerprints. He was disappointed that he never got the recognition he deserved.

Henry died at age 86 with the dispute still unresolved. Today, he is generally recognized as the developer of fingerprints.

Henry Faulds had a distinguished career even without credit for his fingerprint discovery. Unfortunately, many hidden heroes must fight for the credit they deserve.

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“Your fingerprints never fade from the people you touch.” – B.L. Hewitt (Author)

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