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March 31, 2022 - BY Ruchika Dwivedi

Juan Vucetich and the Argentine System of Fingerprint Classification

Juan Vucetich, a Croatian immigrant, arrived in Argentina in 1882. For about four years, he was collecting arrest and crime statistics for the Buenos Aires Police Department. Vucetich rose through the ranks of the Office of Identification within a few years.

Vucetich realized during his tenure that Bertillonage was an ineffective means of criminal identification. Concerns about criminals moving freely in and out of Argentina led him to look for a more effective means of identification. His search came to an end when he came across Galton's research into the scientific application of fingerprints as a technique of individualization in the French journal Revue Scientifique (1891). He launched his campaign to implement fingerprinting into Argentina's criminal justice system after reading this article. His campaign paid off, and in the Office of Identification the next year (1891), fingerprints replaced Bertillonage. This was the first time anthropometry was officially supplanted by fingerprint individualization.

Vucetich knew that in order for the science of fingerprints to be acknowledged internationally, he needed to build a useful and manageable classification system. He quickly devised a classification system that used subcategories to classify, file, and locate fingerprint cards, based on Galton's excessively general three-pattern classification method. His system was originally known as icnofalangométrica, which means "finger track measurement." He dubbed the system dactiloscopa, which means "finger description," in 1896. (Rodriguez, 2004). 

Vucetich's approach was a development of Galton's three patterns: the arch, the loop, and the whorl. Vucetich, further, subdivided the loop into internal (left slope) and external (right slope) categories, resulting in four different patterns: arch, internal loop, external loop, and whorl.

The pattern on the thumb was represented by four single letters, while the patterns on the remaining fingers were represented by four single numbers (Table 1). Vucetich's classification system began with the right thumb and finished with the left little finger, similar to Galton's.


Table 1 - Vucetich’s pattern-type symbols

Pattern
Thumbs 
Other Fingers
ArchA1
Internal LoopI2
External LoopE4


The Vucetich classification system included two levels: a basic (primary) classification and a more descriptive secondary (extensions) classification. The numerator and denominator were separated into two groups in the primary classification. The right hand was represented by the numerator, which was called the series. The left hand was represented by the denominator, which was referred to as the section. The series was represented by the right thumb (called the fundamental) and the remaining right-hand fingers (called the division). The section was represented by the left thumb (called the subclassification) and the remaining left-hand fingers (called the subdivision). If both the numerator and denominator were A1141, all of the fingers in both the right and left hands had arches except the ring fingers, which had whorls.

The secondary classification further subdivided the finger¬prints into five subtypes: 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Each number represented a further description of the pattern, applied to either hand, and was placed as a superscript in paren¬theses (Table 2). When the pattern type was a normal loop variety, the superscript defaulted to ridge count values (Table 3).


Table 2 - Vucetich’s secondary classification.


Pattern
Superscript 
Description
Arch

5

6

7

8

9

Vaulted/Normal

Left-inclined

Right-inclined

Tent-shaped

All others

Internal Loop

5

6

7

8

9

Normal flow

Invaded

Interrogatory

Hooked

All others

External LoopDesignation same as Internal loop

Whorl

5

6

7

8

9

Normal

Sinuous

Ovoid

Hooked

All others



Table 3 - Vucetich’s ridge count values


Ridge Count SpreadSuperscript Value
1-55
6-1010
11-1515
16-2020
Over 20

25


For example, a person whose right-hand fingers all have external (right slope) loops and whose left-hand fingers all have internal (left slope) loops would have a Vucetich classification of:

E (20)  3(10)  3(5)  3(15)  3(10)
________________________
I (10)  2(5)  2(10)  2(10)  2(5)

In 1896, Vucetich published his new classification system in a pamphlet entitled General Instructions for the Province of Buenos Aires System of Identification. In 1904, he published the book that would take his classification system across the world: Dactiloscopía Comparada (Comparative Fingerprinting): The New Argentine System.

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