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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 15:49 GMT
Tribute to fingerprinting pioneer
Dr Henry Faulds
Dr Henry Faulds hails from Beith in Ayrshire
Forensic experts from around the world have gathered in Ayrshire in tribute to the Scottish scientist who discovered that fingerprints are unique.

A memorial to Dr Henry Faulds was unveiled in his home town of Beith.

He discovered the unique pattern of individual human prints while working as a medical missionary in Japan during the 19th century.

Shirley McKie, who was wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene, was among those at the ceremony.

The doctor's breakthrough came during the 1870s when studying ancient pottery. He launched a scientific study after finding his print in clay.

Collection of fingerprints

He removed his own prints with chemicals and discovered that they grew back in the same pattern.

He amassed a collection of fingerprints, but a breakthrough came when Tokyo police arrested a man for burglary.

Dr Faulds proved that the suspect could not have been the thief.

When the police subsequently arrested another suspect, Dr Faulds established that it was the second suspect's fingerprints that had been left at the scene of the crime.

We are very pleased that at long last this memorial to Dr Henry Faulds is finally a reality
Donald Reid
Local historian
In 1880, Dr Faulds published his research in Nature Magazine, an article in which he predicted the forensic application of fingerprints and even forecasted that fingerprints would one day be transmitted by photo-telegraphy.

But when Dr Faulds appealed to the aging Charles Darwin for help in promoting research, Darwin passed the findings to his nephew, Sir Francis Galton.

Sir Francis Galton and his colleague, Sir Edward Henry, would later claim these findings as their own, quietly forgetting to credit Dr Faulds' pioneering work.

A memorial to Dr Faulds has stood in Tokyo since 1951, but campaigners in his home town of Beith have long pressed for something similar to be put in place in Scotland.

A plaque to the doctor was unveiled on Friday by Provost Drew Duncan of North Ayrshire Council and Brian Wilson, MP for Cunninghame North.

'A great day'

Local historian Donald Reid said: "Today was wonderful because we raised about 7,000 and constructed a memorial in the centre of Beith.

"We are very pleased that at long last this memorial to Dr Henry Faulds is finally a reality.

"It's been a great day. I am so proud for the whole town and the whole community."

Shirley McKie and her father are campaigning for reform of the fingerprint system.

The former policewoman was cleared of lying on oath in 1999 after insisting that a fingerprint found at the scene of the murder of a Kilmarnock woman was not hers.


SEE ALSO:
Print case 'shames Scots justice'
20 Sep 04 |  Scotland
Anger at fingerprint case claim
07 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Fingerprint service defended
25 Nov 03 |  Scotland


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