Sir William Herschel, 2nd Baronet

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Sir William Herschel, Bt
William James Herschel.jpg
Born (1833-01-09)9 January 1833
Slough, England
Died 24 October 1917(1917-10-24) (aged 84)
Nationality British
Known for Fingerprints, Forensics

Sir William James Herschel, 2nd Baronet (9 January 1833 – 24 October 1917)[1] [2][3][4][5]was a British officer in India who used fingerprints for identification on contracts.[2][6][7]


Personals[edit]

He was born in Slough in Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire), the third child (of twelve) and the eldest son (of three) of the astronomer, John Herschel. His younger brothers were Alexander Stewart Herschel and John Herschel the Younger.

On 19 May 1864 he married (Anne) Emma Haldane, youngest daughter of Alfred Hardcastle of Hatcham House, Surrey. She died at the birth of their second son, having borne him 4 children:

He lived at Warfield in Berkshire. Upon his death the baronetcy passed to his son.

Fingerprinting[edit]

Herschel is credited with being the first European to note the value of fingerprints for identification. He recognized that fingerprints were unique and permanent. Herschel documented his own fingerprints over his lifetime to prove permanence. He was also credited with being the first person to use fingerprints in a practical manner. As early as the 1850s, working as a British officer for the Indian Civil Service in the Bengal region of India, he started putting fingerprints on contracts.[2]

In 1858, Herschel used whole handprints as a signature on contracts, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which changed Bengal directly to British control (the British Raj, ending control by the British East India Company). Local businessman Rajyadhar Konai[8] was the first person Herschel handprinted, apparently more as a way of getting Konai to honor a contract he had signed than as a means of identification; it was only sometime later that he gave serious thought to the efficacy of fingerprints as identification.

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A. Spokes Symonds, ‘Herschel, Sir William James, second baronet (1833–1917)’, rev. Katherine Prior, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 14 Nov 2013
  2. ^ a b c "Michele Triplett's Fingerprint Dictionary: H" (glossary), Michele Triplett, 2006, Fprints.nwlean.net webpage: Fprints-H.
  3. ^ Death Of Sir William Herschel. Author Of Finger-Print Identity System. (Obituaries) The Times Thursday, Oct 25, 1917; pg. 9; Issue 41618; col F
  4. ^ Sir William Herschel. (News) The Times Saturday, Oct 27, 1917; pg. 9; Issue 41620; col E
  5. ^ ‘HERSCHEL, Sir William James’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 13 Nov 2013
  6. ^ "Michele Triplett's Fingerprint Dictionary: K" (glossary), Michele Triplett, 2006, Fprints.nwlean.net webpage: Fprints-K.
  7. ^ Herschel, William J (1916). The Origin of Finger-Printing. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-104-66225-7. 
  8. ^ Rajyadhar Konai http://www.correctionhistory.org/html/chronicl/dcjs/html/nyidbur2.html