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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Juan (Ivan) Vucetich - Pioneer Of Modern-Day Fingerprint Identification/Dactyloscopy

Pictured on a commemorative Croatian stamp, Argentinian anthropologist and police official Juan Vucetich (born Ivan Vučetić in Hvar, Croatia), went on to devise the first workable system of fingerprint identification, and pioneered the first successful use of fingerprint identification evidence in a murder investigation. 

It's been a few weeks since my last post so here's something quick and interesting enough to throw in here, a little history and probably a little known about piece of general information also. It's even something to think about when swiping on your smartphone, laptop, other related tech gadgets and these days even modern day identification/security procedures at airports and other various important places. And while doing this post it also reminded me of something sort of related to the topic, so what the heck I'm going to add that also...

You see, this post reminded me of when I was 19 and applied to the military for the first time. (it was a year or so after high school when the daily city stuff around here was getting boring and the same ol' crap, I was getting visions of glorious travels and epic adventures etc). Anyway, it reminds me of how for my first individual personal sit-down meeting with the recruiting officer, I explained how I was interested in becoming an M.P. (that's Military Policeman for those not in the know, it's a 9 to 5-ish/shift military job with even women M.P.'s btw, it's not a monastery). Besides the usual identification, employment and schooling prerequisite proofs with me, I also decided to bring along some other things like my recent sports accomplishments, hockey, high school football and track team past stuff because I figured it couldn't hurt, being on the city gold medal track team was a plus I thought and probably was good to know. (to give them an idea that the basic training physical tests shouldn't be an issue). I also mentioned how I was fluent in a foreign language, had read lots of books and already knew about many subversive organizations and their modus operandi that most people had never heard of, I even predicted to him some wars that only a few years later happened exactly as I predicted. (I even mentioned how I had been collecting Batman comics since I was a kid, knew the utility belt and the various weaponry capabilities inside and out, could elbow drop like Randy Savage and had even watched every Six Million Dollar Man episode when I was a kid, those are pluses too without a doubt)

Why M.P. in the first place the reader may ponder? Because quite simply it was a door to future grandeur and excitement. I never planned or had any thoughts about being a typical civilian policeman I should note, none whatsoever. I really never had any interest or passion for the typical urban city policing duties. I wouldn't have much cared for those 3:00 am calls to apartments because of drunk yelling neighbours about an insinuated shove or stolen knick-knack, fucko filled bar last calls with he said/she said fistfights, stabbings/shootings of and by people I simply couldn't care less about, people arguing about mundane pointless things on city street corners at all hours, B&E's and Sunday afternoon lost or stolen bikes, pets, clothes or chairs, graffiti and broken windows, crazy yelling cat lady houses, strange smells complaints about the house with the jungle backyard and dirty mattresses, overdosed corpses in gardens or closets or whatever, ghetto grow ops and "special candies" production (because just like those bars, even the building landlords don't give a fuck who they rent to, who goes in or out or even what goes on, so why should I or anyone else? Let them shoot and stab each other all night long for all I care. Even the local news cares more about American celebs, viral Youtube videos and sports so it's best for them to just start their very own "community" themed police and "community" protection services then, it just makes more sense and is also known as police streamlining, just like in the aviation industry)..."What's that mam/sir? some stabbings and shootings just happened? you don't say, are you sure? Well, calm down now, we'll get some police officers out there in a jiffy for you with the crime scene camera and tape measure to fix things and look around, don't you worry about a thing mam/sir, can you give us a description of what kind of sneakers or hat he was wearing? They'll likely be on their way soon probably"...(because there's more important things to do after all, like saving those puppies and kittens stuck in trees, guarding/directing the parade routes etc)... those giving out traffic tickets, kids doing this or that pointless thing etc, basically in a way I just wasn't interested in being a babysitter and raising other peoples kids and adults. Pfff, I might as well then have just become a Boy Scouts leader and lead their Kumbaya singers or a pool Life Guard. Nope, that wasn't for me and not what I was put on earth to do, I had other visions, plans and ideas, I wanted to wear that M.P. armband like in the movies, but even that was going to be just for starters and only the first step towards international adventures and immortality, so to speak.

Anyway, I never got past that sit-down interview for the M.P. position application. Why? Yeah I thought so too. Well, "supposedly" the M.P. positions applications were all already filled and there was at least another 6-12 month waiting list before any other openings might happen, so he said. I found this very strange and sort of made up. Because the recruiting officer was sort of the hefty side if you know what I mean and he really didn't come across to me as military looking, but more mall cop material, and at the time I was on the thin side (but not skinny) with no mustache like him, on top of that I had all the prerequisites but just didn't have short hair already but rather one of those Def Leppard-ish short-longs that were common and quite popular in the late 80's. (not exactly, just -ish, but not nearly as ridiculous looking as the Billy Ray Cyrus short-long in the 90's which was borderline disturbing, not even close to that. Like I was supposed to walk in there with a fresh marine style haircut in the late 80's and I wasn't even in the military? As if). Personally I think he held those points against me and was just being selfish, he probably just said that and gave the M.P. position applications only to his pals or types who already had buzz cuts etc, so basically it was his selfishness which denied my rightful wearing of the M.P. armband. (he came across to me as probably a typical top 40 listener, so many so called "acts" that just came and went to oblivion overnight practically)

You see, because of his lying greedy selfishness he f***ked up a glorious epic future and incredible tale to be told, which could have made a real difference for the better in the world. (probably a lot of the situations, events and crap that happened would have been avoided altogether, because I would have been on it long before most people knew what was going on). Because being M.P. was going to bring opportunities eventually of working in and locating to even other countries, working at embassies and then with governments in various Nato countries and probably travel all over the world eventually, last minute secret mission jet flights to international cities  learning about new weaponry and vehicles, working in unison with other elite networks of professionals helping make governments fall and inducing sudden crises around the globe for progress and a better future, using the internet and smartphones before there even was an internet and smartphones for the general populace, learning 3, 5 maybe 10 new languages and being able to walk through raindrops, one day pretending to be a Canadian and then the next day appearing as an ethnic Czech, Croat, Swedish, Pole, Norwegian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian or Swiss, then disappearing and reappearing again next as an ethnic Russian, German, Argentine, Belarusian, Hungarian or French and confounding the enemy with even superlative accents and history/gastronomy/fashion kowledge, new secret weaponry and top secret technology, spy weaponry and technology, billion dollar foreign secret bank accounts and arms sales, secret deals, portfolios and agreements in cafes and restaurants in the interesting good parts of the world, plenty of top secret jacuzzi time in jacuzzis that most people have never heard of or even knew existed, art gallery wine tasting/classified information exchanges and deals, even night vision goggles...long story short eventually becoming something that even James Bond, John Wick, Rick Deckard, Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne could only dream of. Anyway, a couple years later I did eventually join the armed forces by applying for the next closest thing, but had to go through the much more boring and less glamorous M.P. armband-less radio operator information systems/communications route because of the waiting list thing again. (the recruiter the 2nd time said I could apply for an occupation tranfser if I passed my basic training, but later again I was told they had just sent a new platoon for basic training and so there was still a waiting list and I would probably have to finish my initial contract first and then it was practically guaranteed...always with the waiting list crap)

So that's my personal police related story to this post, because of that armed forces recruiting officer's greedy selfishness my rightful M.P. position and later world traveling spy, espionage, vodka martini drinking man of mystery, secret cafe agreements, art nouveau and art deco hotel clandestine meetings and chase scenes, action, thrills, chills, suspense and exciting drama weren't going to happen, and the Monaco/Paris/Berlin/Prague/Buenos Aires/Hong Kong/Mumbai/Tokyo/Zagreb and many other international shindigs filled with adventures, fashion models, aristocrats and sophisticated weaponry and technology were not going to happen either, all because of that pencil pusher. I really hate that recruiter guy, let this just be a word of warning and a benefit to the reader. Back to the main topic...

More information/sources:

Juan (Ivan) Vucetich (July 20, 1858 – January 25, 1925) was a Croatian-born Argentine anthropologist and police official who pioneered the use of fingerprinting, as an Argentinian police official he devised the first workable system of fingerprint identification, and pioneered the first successful use of fingerprint evidence in a murder investigation. (Juan being the equivalent of Ivan, the same as John, Johann, János, Jean etc)

Vucetich was born as Ivan Vučetić at Hvar in the Dalmatian region of the Croatian crown lands which at the time was also administratively a part of the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1882, Vučetić emigrated from Croatia to Argentina at the age of 26, where 4 years later he took a job in the La Plata Police Office of Identification and Statistics. Vučetić/Vucetich joined the most numerous and one of the oldest Croatian emigrant communities on the South American continent. (At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there were 133 settlements with some 150,000 Croatians in Argentina, for the most part hailing from the coastal regions of Dalmatia and Hrvatsko primorje, who were among the first European immigrants to settle in the Argentinean pampas).

Although fingerprint characteristics were studied as far back as the mid-1600s, the use of fingerprints as a possible means of identification did not occur until the mid-19th century when it was noticed that they are permanent and do not change over a lifetime. After reading an article in a French journal on Francis Galton's experiments with fingerprints as a possible means of identification, Vucetich began collecting fingerprints taken from various arrested men, while also making Bertillon-style anthropometric measurements. He even observed and was able to identify the noticeable racial differences in fingerprints, in the process he soon devised an efficient useable overall system to group and classify fingerprints, which he called Dactiloscopy.

In 1891 Vucetich began the first filing of fingerprints based on ideas of Francis Galton which he expanded significantly. He then became the director of the Center for Dactyloscopy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the time, he included the Bertillon system alongside the fingerprint files.

In 1892 Vucetich made history with the first positive identification of a criminal in a case where Francisca Rojas had killed her two children and then cut her throat, trying to put the blame on an outside attacker. Initially, suspicion fell on a man named Velasquez, a suitor of the children's mother, Francisca Rojas. But after repeated attempts the police could not get him to confess to the murder.

Until then, the only other method of identification was the Bertillonage, named after its inventor, Alphonse Bertillon, who worked for the Paris police. This method involved the recording of body measurements in more than 11 different places. In an age when photography was very expensive, Bertillonage gave police their best chance of definitively identifying a person.

Investigators found a bloody fingerprint at the crime scene and so contacted Juan Vucetich, who was at the time developing his system of fingerprint identification for police use. Vucetich compared the fingerprints of Rojas and Velasquez with the bloody fingerprint found on a door. Francisca Rojas had denied touching the bloody bodies, but the fingerprint exactly matched one of hers.

Confronted with the evidence, she confessed— and it was the very first successful use of positive fingerprint identification in a murder investigation. Shortly after that, he broke entirely with Bertillon, arguing that a full ten-finger set of fingerprints was sufficient for identification, and that complicated anthropometric measurements were unnecessary.

Vucetich's own personal military notebook/identification card (libreta de enrolamiento), 1911.

In 1900, the Argentine Republic began issuing a kind of internal passport which included fingerprints - a practice that was eventually adopted by many other countries. Argentine police adopted Vucetich's method of fingerprinting classification and it spread to police forces all over the world. The Vucetich system was also implemented in the Argentine army and electoral system.

It was the first system of identification of people through their fingerprints and a new political and social revolution, because for the first time the authorities could have an unalterable database of their citizens and were able to verify and control the movements of citizens of other countries also. The new techniques represented a real advance, as they were able to capture criminals who might have gone unnoticed before and were still continuing criminal activities.

For security experts, the use of fingerprints at the time meant what for us today is the use of DNA, it served to establish links between people and actions, and it also served to carry out a census of the population and to introduce identification documents such as identity cards. Today fingerprints along with other biometric measures have been a tremendously important key in the fight against terrorism, and is fundamental in areas such as document authentication, border control and airport security operations.

Vucetich improved his method with new material and in 1904 published "Dactiloscopía Comparada" (Comparative Dactyloscopy). He traveled to India and China and attended scientific conferences to gather more data, his travels to other countries helped to spread his system throughout the world, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. Juan Vucetich died in Dolores, Argentina in 1925.

In his honor, the Buenos Aires province police academy, near La Plata, has been named Escuela de Policía "Juan Vucetich" (Juan Vucetich Police Academy), and an eponymous museum was also founded. The police Center for Forensics Examinations (Centar za kriminalistička vještačenja "Ivan Vučetić") in Zagreb, Croatia is also named after him. The Croatian city of Pula has a memorial marker to Vucetich, owing to his service there while in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. (Many Croatian sailors likewise were in the navy, being that the Croatian crown lands were part of the Habsburg Monarchy). He also has an official bust in his birth town, in the coastal city of Hvar Town on the island of Hvar.

(More information about the town of Hvar at croatian-island-town-hvar-celebrating-2400th)

Ivan Vučetić's bust in the port of the town of Hvar, Croatia.

The police Center for Forensics Examinations "Ivan Vučetić". (Centar za kriminalistička vještačenja "Ivan Vučetić") in Zagreb, Croatia. 

During his years spent at international conferences and teaching his Dactyloscopy techniques to police forces in India and China.

Vucetich's fingerprint card, December 13, 1912.

Vucetich's "Dactilonomo" about 1891, a year before his first groundbreaking solved murder case.

Even these days the recovery of fingerprints from a crime scene is an important method of forensic science. Image:

Academic meeting at the University of La Plata Law School Museum in 1923.

During a rising epidemic wave of murders, domestic violence and arrests in Brazil in 1903, Juan Vucetich was asked to implement and teach his Dactyloscopy fingerprinting system at the Rio de Janeiro Identification Bureau.

Vucetich's appointment as Head of the Statistics Section at the Buenos Aires Province Police Department, September 21, 1889.


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