Statistical analysis in science is a tool that puts a numeric value to the “thing” being tested, it does not prove the validity of the actual science. The empirical study of fingerprints has taken place over the past 100 years and has proven that fingerprints are unique and individual. From the critical perspective, fingerprint comparison and identification methodology remains reliable and valid as scientific evidence and to this day has yet to be considered inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.
Fingerprints are developed while the fetus is still in the womb. The friction ridge detail begins to develop on the hands and feet of a fetus during the 12th or 13th weeks of pregnancy (Ashbaugh, 1999, p.54). These “ridges do not run from one side of the hand or the finger to the other in a continuous stream, but are broken and noncontinuous. The arrangement of these ridges, like all natural things, is unique” (McRoberts, 1994, p.l). From the scientific perspective, early pioneers in fingerprint history are considered Sir William J. Herschel and Dr. Henry Faulds. Herschel is actually credited for “being the first European to recognize the value of friction ridge prints and to actually use them for identification purposes” (Aushbaugh, 1999, p.21). However, Alphonse Bertillon in Paris, France was first to devise the first truly scientific method of criminal identification, called anthropometry or Bertillonage. Bertillon “included fingerprints on the rear of his anthropometric cards as a final check of his identification. Upon Bertillon’s death in 1914, Bertillonage was discarded in France and replaced by fingerprint identification” (Ashbaugh, 1999, p. 28). In 1893, fingerprinting was added to the files at Scotland Yard, but anthropometry was still considered the primary method of identification until 1901.