Henry Faulds

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Henry Faulds was a Scottish physician, missionary, and scientist who set the foundation for fingerprinting’s growth. Despite having played a key part in the creation of fingerprinting, he never received the acclaim he deserved during his lifetime and died an angry man. Henry had to drop out of school to get a job and fend for himself after his wealthy parents lost their fortune when he was a young lad. After a few years, he decided to continue his education and enrolled in Glasgow University to study mathematics and logic. But it wasn’t long before he decided that studying medicine was his true calling, and he enrolled at Anderson’s College, where he earned his physician’s license. He also gained a strong faith in Christianity throughout his college years and was drawn to missionary work. He became a medical missionary in Japan after joining the United Presbyterian Church. There, he established a reputation as a distinguished physician and became involved in archaeological investigations in Japan, which sparked his interest in fingerprints. Over the next few years, he conducted various experiments to verify that fingerprints are unique to an individual and may be used as a signature.

Childhood and Adolescence

Henry Faulds was born in Beith, Scotland, on June 1, 1843. His parents were affluent at one time, but they lost a large portion of their income when the City of Glasgow bank collapsed in 1855. He dropped out of school at the age of 13 since he couldn’t afford to continue his education due to a lack of cash, and found work as a clerk. Later on, he worked as an apprentice for a shawl maker.

He opted to continue his study after a few years of employment. He was a bright young man, and at the age of 21, he began taking classes at Glasgow University in mathematics, logic, and classics. When he was 25, he concluded that medicine was his genuine calling and enrolled at Anderson’s College in Glasgow, where he received his doctorate.

Career of Henry Faulds

Henry Faulds grew passionately devout as a college student, and after graduation, he became a medical missionary for the Church of Scotland. In 1871, he was dispatched to British India, where he served for two years in a destitute hospital in Darjeeling. In 1873, he became a member of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He traveled to Japan the following year, accompanied by his new wife, to begin a medical mission.

He created the first Scottish mission in Japan with the Tsukiji hospital and a training facility for Japanese medical students after arriving in Japan. He quickly established himself as a good physician, earning the respect of the community. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Rakuzenkai, Japan’s first blind society, in 1875 and a blind school in 1880. To prevent drowning, he also established lifeguard posts on neighboring waterways.

In addition to his full-time job as a doctor, he pursued a variety of other interests. He once went to an archaeological excavation with his friend, American archaeologist Edward S. Morse. He saw the minute patterns of lines and swirls etched in the clay while inspecting the cooking pots made of clay. He had been addressing his pupils on touch a few months before when he spotted the whirling ridges on his own fingertips. He understood that the marks on the clay containers were caused by the ridges on the fingers of ancient potters.

He became fascinated with the idea of examining fingerprints and conducted a series of experiments over the next few years in order to investigate fingerprints scientifically. He and his medical students shaved the ridges off their fingers and discovered that the ridges regenerated again in the identical patterns. He also looked at the fingerprints of infants and youngsters to see if their fingertip patterns changed as they grew older. Henry Faulds came to the opinion that each person has a unique fingerprint after conducting various experiments and reviewing a large collection of fingerprints.

‘On the Skin-Furrows of the Hand,’ his first work on the subject, was published in the scientific magazine ‘Nature’ in October 1880. In this paper, he also anticipated that fingerprints may be used to identify disfigured bodies.
Sir William Herschel, a British civil servant serving in India, wrote to ‘Nature’ shortly after the publication of this research, stating that he had been using fingerprints to identify offenders since 1860. This sparked a lot of debate and led to a lot of animosity between the two men. Herschel later acknowledged that Faulds was the one who made the first discovery.

In 1886, Faulds travelled to the United Kingdom and gave Scotland Yard his fingerprinting technology. However, Scotland Yard turned down the offer, most likely because Faulds did not show the detailed evidence that fingerprints are unique and long-lasting. In his later years, he served as a police surgeon in Staffordshire.

Major Projects of Henry Faulds

Henry Faulds is known for his pioneering work in the field of fingerprinting. His work on the issue, titled ‘On the Skin-Furrows of the Hand,’ was the first scientific literature to establish the basic notions of the fingerprint method of identification. It was published in the scientific magazine ‘Nature.’ Despite his groundbreaking contributions to the discipline, he was never given the credit he deserved throughout his lifetime.

Personal History and Legacy

In September 1873, he married Isabella Wilson.
He died on 24 March 1930, at the age of 86.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Henry Faulds is not available.