"No two fingerprints are alike," or so it goes. For nearly a hundred years fingerprints have represented definitive proof of individual identity in our society. We trust them to tell us who committed a crime, whether a criminal record exists, and how to resolve questions of disputed identity.
But in Suspect Identities, Simon Cole reveals that the history of criminal identification is far murkier than we have been led to believe. Cole traces the modern system of fingerprint identification to the nineteenth-century bureaucratic state, and its desire to track and control increasingly mobile, diverse populations whose race or ethnicity made them suspect in the eyes of authorities. In an intriguing history that traverses the globe, taking us to India, Argentina, France, England, and the United States, Cole excavates the forgotten history of criminal identification--from photography to exotic anthropometric systems based on measuring body parts, from fingerprinting to DNA typing. He reveals how fingerprinting ultimately won the trust of the public and the law only after a long battle against rival identification systems.
As we rush headlong into the era of genetic identification, and as fingerprint errors are being exposed, this history uncovers the fascinating interplay of our elusive individuality, police and state power, and the quest for scientific certainty. Suspect Identities offers a necessary corrective to blind faith in the infallibility of technology, and a compelling look at its role in defining each of us.
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Like any other new prisoner, West was subjected to the standard admission
procedure: prison clerks took photographs, a physical description, and eleven
anthropometric measurements. Using West's measurements and description, ...
Prison clerks filled in these spaces, not with the standardized morphological
terms enumerated in Bertillon's instruction manuals, but with arbitrary, colloquial
terms drawn from everyday language. Ears might be "medium and flaring," "small
The people who first took up fingerprinting in the United States were mostly "
Bertillon clerks" who oversaw the taking of anthropometric measurements and
the completing and filing of Bertillon cards. Some were police officers, others
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SUSPECT IDENTITIES: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal IdentificationUser Review - Kirkus
A critical look at the origins of criminal identification and the impact of changing technologies on the field.Cole, who received his Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Cornell, cautions ... Read full review
Suspect identities: a history of criminal identification and fingerprintingUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Most of us still think of fingerprint analysis as a kind of gold standard of criminal forensics, expressly developed as an indisputable means of catching the bad guy. Cole points out that these ... Read full review
Jekylls and Hydes
Measuring the Criminal Body
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