Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Whorls DNA Fingerprints and Bernice Pepperling

Whorls DNA Fingerprints and Bernice Pepperling.

Are all fingerprints unique?  Well…if you've been following here long, you probably know the answer.  Not really.  We'll get to that later.

Fingerprint and Identification Magazine.  Fingerprint Magazine ran for some 50 years, and guess what?  The Genealogy Today website is indexing all the issues into their database as fast as they can find them! 

The magazine was sold to 16,000 police chiefs who in turn shared it with ten patrolmen.  (yes, sold…it was a subscription item your local chief had to pay for.)  See the stats on the cover?  16,000 sold, 160,000 readers.  In the publishing business that is known as the pass-along rate.  "Mac…stop screwing around.  Go study the Fingerprint magazine."

It ran profiles and the whorls of wanted desperadoes, including gunsel (and cover girl) Bernice Pepperling (AKA Marie Riley) here who tried to slip a weapon into jail to her lover.  She is presumed innocent until rounded up.  If you are doing some genealogical research on your great aunt Bernice, you are in for a surprise.

They also has curious little news items, like the one here about fingerprints being used to control quarantined Detroit citizens…You'll see they fingerprinted the resident of every rooming house to prevent the spread of smallpox.  Sorry privacy advocates.  Public Health wins out every time,  just like it did back in 1924.  Read the piece and you'll see some guys were sending in ringers to give prints for them so they could keep on spreading germs.

I looked for the newest issue of Fingerprints at Barnes and Noble, but it must have slipped back behind one of the Brides magazines or something.

Anyway, back to the initial question.  Is every fingerprint one of a kind?  Turns out it is kinda like every snowflake being different.  Wilson Bentley found identical snowflakes, and he only had to look at 5,000.  We had that many nearly every DAY last winter on my PORCH.  Then Mr. Bentley died of pneumonia.  (True) 

That is, the uniqueness of a fingerprint is  "a working hypothesis"  which is why in court they used to pay someone to come in and say it's a science.  I guess in the trade the problem is known as "false positives" which is an oxymoron, but it works. 

I quote.  "Five examiners made false positive errors for an overall false positive rate of 0.1%. Eighty-five percent of examiners made at least one false negative error for an overall false negative rate of 7.5%."  For you sticklers, the citation is  "Accuracy and reliability of forensic latent fingerprint decisions"  by Bradford T. Ulery" National Academy of Sciences. Even better is THIS ONE.
Fingerprints are increasingly being replaced by DNA.  DNA never lies, but the problem is often getting juries to believe in science.  Some jurors zone out around 10:30 and miss the explanation…and they zone out again after those two hour lunch breaks.  I do know there has been a marked decrease in the number of perps trying to file or burn their fingerprints off…something which happened in movies during the depression and in Dick Tracy comics.  By the way, did you know John Dillinger tried to burn his fingerprints off with acid?  Yep…not long after this magazine appeared.

Fingerprint and Identification Magazine September 1924 Collection Jim Linderman

BOOKS AND $5.99 eBOOKS by Jim Linderman are available HERE

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