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Dr. Henry Faulds


1843 - 1930

Pioneer of finger-print identification. Born in Beith (North Ayrshire), Faulds studied at Anderson's College (now the University of Strathclyde) in Glasgow. He went to Japan as a medical missionary on behalf of the United Free Presbyterian Church and worked in a hospital in Tokyo (1874-86). Here he discovered the unique pattern of human finger-prints and, after chemically removing his own finger-prints, was able to show this unique pattern would regrow.

He published his ideas in Nature (1880) where he suggested the forensic use of fingerprints left at the scene of a crime, demonstrated that prints could be taken using an ink-covered slate and even predicted that they would eventually be transmitted between agencies using photo-telegraphy. He went on to amass a sizeable collection of prints and was able to assist the Tokyo police in a burglary investigation.

In an attempt to fund further research, Faulds appealed to an ageing Charles Darwin. Darwin passed Fauld's letter to his nephew Sir Francis Galton who was later to take the credit for Fauld's discovery.

Faulds is remembered by a monument in Tokyo (erected 1951) and a memorial cairn in Beith which was unveiled in 2004, following a campaign which resulted in a motion passed by the Scottish Parliament to restore Faulds' place in history.


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