Why do we have fingerprints?

Lots More Information

Author's Note: Why do we have fingerprints?

Fingerprinting is a fascinating area of study, especially when you get past the CSI nonsense and the myth of infallibility. Not every print left by a criminal winds up dusted and, even then, with up to a 20 percent rate of error depending on the lab, who knows whether that print will lead to anyone -- much less the actual perpetrator.

I suppose the take-home is that there's danger in relying on fingerprinting as the sole biometric in identification -- especially when you take into account the 301 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States as reported by the Innocence Project as of Nov. 13, 2012.

Related Articles


  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "Why fingerprints?" Jan. 30, 2009. (Nov. 6, 2012) http://chinese.eurekalert.org/en/pub_releases/2009-01/aaft-wf012609.php
  • Arpin, Tina. "Faulty Fingerprints." Triplepoint. 2005. (Nov. 5, 2012) http://www.bu.edu/sjmag/scimag2005/opinion/fingerprints.htm
  • Cherry, Michael and Edward Imwinkelried. "How can we improve the reliability of fingerprint identification?" 2006. (Nov. 5, 2012) http://www.ajs.org/ajs/publications/Judicature_PDFs/902/Cherry_902.pdf
  • "Fingerprint grip theory rejected." BBC News. June 12, 2009. (Nov. 13, 2012) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8093134.stm
  • Ray, C. Claiborne. "Q&A: Twins and Fingerprints." The New York Times. Oct. 5, 2009.(Nov. 6, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/science/06qna.html?_r=0
  • Stigler, Stephen M. "Galton and Identification by Fingerprints." Genetics Society of America. 1995. (Nov. 6, 2012) http://www.genetics.org/content/140/3/857.full.pdf