William J Herschel, British fingerprint pioneer

William J Herschel, British fingerprint pioneer

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: William Herschel. Portrait of Sir William J. Herschel (1833-1917), British pioneer of fingerprint identification. Astronomer John Herschel's son, W.J. Herschel was a judge and administrator in India (part of the British Empire). Finger- prints had been described by N. Grew in 1684 and in further detail in 1823 by Purkinje. However, Herschel was the first to note that fingerprints were unique for each person and that they did not change with time. He used them from the 1860s on contracts, for prison records and as a way of preventing fraudulent impersonations. On retiring to the UK, Herschel studied at Oxford University and gained a first in theology at the age of 48.

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Keywords: fingerprint, identity, pioneer, portraits, surname h, william j.herschel

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