Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification

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9780674004559: Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification
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Book by Cole Simon A

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Cole weaves the intriguing tale of how and why people were identified as who they claimed to be. This history begins in the era where identification was largely unnecessary because people did not travel very far and were known in their own communities. As both travel and criminal behavior increased, the need to identify people grew...Cole describes the ancient use of fingerprints up through time until they became commonplace for use in identifying criminals. He presents an excellent account of the problems and controversies surrounding the use of fingerprints for identification, ending with the current issues of using DNA for identification. The illustrative stories are excellent, making this a fascinating trip through identification history.--J. A. Brown"Choice" (12/01/2001)

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"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 this text, 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 19th-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 finger-printing 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.

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