Joseph Faurot and the First Fingerprint Conviction
10 min

The use of fingerprints as a means of establishing identity dates back to 300 BC. But, it was American agricultural scientist Thomas Taylor who first proposed, in 1877, the use of palm and finger marks to identify criminals.

The elevation of fingerprints from "junk science" to reliable courtroom evidence was first achieved by New York Police Inspector Joseph Faurot. Faurot's passion for this field, and his absolute faith in its accuracy, made him the nation's most respected fingerprint expert.

In this episode, Stephanie discusses this fascinating history of fingerprints, from early scientific discoveries to Mark Twain's use of them as a plot device in one of his most famous stories.

To read Stephanie's feature article (on which this episode is based) visit:

To view photos and other documents associated with this episode, visit and click on the "podcast" tab - then click on the Episode 9 artwork to be taken to the show notes.

To learn more about New York's famous Rogues Gallery, which is mentioned in this episode, check out Season 1, Episode 2 of this podcast.

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