Azizul Haque (police officer)

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Azizul Haque
Born c. 1872
Paigramkasba village, Fultala, Khulna division, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died 1935 (aged 62–63)

Azizul Haque (also Azizul Hacque, Khan Bahadur Qazi Azizul Huq, Quazi Syed Azizul Haque 1872–1935) was a police officer of British India who worked with Edward Henry to develop the Henry Classification System of fingerprints. Haque, reportedly, provided the mathematical basis for the system. Haque was born in 1872[1] in the village of Paigramkasba, Fultala Phultala, in the Khulna division of Bengal, now Bangladesh. His parents reportedly died in a boat accident when he was young. According to family history, Haque left his family home at age 12, as a result of "altercation" with his older brother, and went to Kolkata, where he befriended a family who became "impressed" with his mathematical skills and arranged for him to get a formal education. According to Beavan,[2] Henry recruited Haque as a police sub-inspector to work on the fingerprint project at the recommendation of the Principal of Calcutta Presidency College, where Haque studied math and science, and thus Haque began his career in Bengal Police Service. Once professionally established, Haque visited his brother from whom he was estranged as a run-away boy, and as the family story goes, the brother was over joyed and promptly arranged Haque to marry his cousin (which was an accepted custom among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent). Haque subsequently opted to join the Bihar Police Service when Bihar was separated from the Bengal Presidency. Upon retirement from service, he settled in Motihari in Bihar province of India, where he died and was buried there. He had eight surviving children. His wife, and the children and their families migrated to East Pakistan and West Pakistan during the independence of Pakistan in 1947, and presently their descendants are settled in Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Australia and North America.

Education and police career[edit]

Haque was recruited by Edward Henry to work on the fingerprint project as part of the Calcutta Police service of British India. According to Colin Beavan (p 131), "Haque studied math and science at Presidency College, Kolkata. In 1892, Edward Henry wrote to the college principal asking for the recommendation of a strong statistics student, and the principal nominated Haque. Henry recruited Haque as a police sub-inspector, and initially gave him the responsibility for instituting the anthropometric system in Bengal."


Haque, in his attempt to apply the anthropometric system originally proposed by Francis Galton, got frustrated in terms of its practical application. He soon, according to Bevan, "began to work on a classification system of his own borrowing elements of Galton's." He devised a mathematical formula of sorting slips in 1024 pigeonholes in thirty-two columns and thirty-two rows based on fingerprint patterns. "Its use required no math and no measurements." Beavan further writes, "By 1897, Haque had collected 7000 fingerprint sets in his cabinet. His simple methods of further subclassification, which were easier to learn and less prone to error than Galton's, meant that even a collection numbering in the hundreds of thousands could be divided into small groups of slips. As he predicted, his fingerprint sets, compared with anthropometric cards, were far less prone to error and could be classified and searched with much greater confidence. The registration of a convict or a search for his existing card took an hour under the anthropometric system, but only five minutes using Haque's classification of fingerprints." Bevan goes on to say, "Haque's boss, Edward Henry, was overjoyed with Haque's results, and Henry saw that they would reflect well on him and career. He asked the colonial government to convene a committee to evaluate the system for widespread use. The committee reported that fingerprints were superior to anthropometry "1. In simplicity of working; 2. In the cost of apparatus; 3. In the fact that all skilled work is transferred to a central or classification office; 4. In the rapidity with which the process can be worked; and 5. In the certainty or results. Fingerprints, in other words, were the new hero in criminal identification." (Bevan, page 142)

Commenting on Henry's version that Henry reported to others later on, Beavan writes, "Meanwhile, Henry begun to tell those who asked that it was he who had come up with the classification system in a sudden flash of inspiration on a train, when he had no paper and had to resort to noting his ideas on the shirt cuff. The tales got back to England, along with word of the success Henry achieved on the backs of Haque and Galton." Later on, Beavan writes on page 149, "Galton has taken Faulds'(Henry Faulds) ideas, Haque took some of Galton's. and now Henry describing the new classification system as if it were his own, took Haque's...The methods of fingerprint classification, though Faulds, Galton, and Haque had each contributed to them, would forever be associated with Henry's name." (Bevan, page 149)

Hem Chandra Bose, another Indian Police Officer, who worked with Haque and Henry, subsequently contributed to the development of telegraphic code system for fingerprints.[3]

Henry, however, initially did not openly acknowledge contributions of the two Indian police officers to the development of fingerprint classification, and for which Henry was recognised and honoured later in England, and the classification system was named as Henry Classification System and is still currently widely used in the world.

Years later, when Haque requested recognition and compensation from the British government for his contribution to fingerprint classification work, Henry did acknowledge publicly Haque's contribution. He also did the same, when the issue of compensation for Bose came up later on. Recently, Sodhi and Kaur published an extensive research paper on the issue of the two Indian police officers' contributions to fingerprint development.[4]


Sodhi and Kaur, in their paper, quoted The Statesman, the eminent newspaper in India(Calcutta), which published an article dated 28 February 1925 entitled, 'Indian affairs in London,' which stated, "A Muhammadan Sub-Inspector played an important and still insufficiently acknowledged part in fingerprint classification." Then Sodhi and Kaur went on to quote several other sources to support Haque's contribution to fingerprint classification. For example, J.D. Sifton, Officiating Chief Secretary to the Government of Bihar and Orissa, wrote a letter (letter no. 761 PR, dated 15 June 1925): "Azizul Haque was… allowed to start research work upon a method of classifying finger prints, and after months of experiment he evolved his primary classification which convinced Sir E.R. Henry that the problem of providing an effective method of classifying fingerprints could be solved. Thereafter the secondary and other classifications were evolved and the Khan Bahadur (Haque) played an important role in their conception." Sir Henry, reportedly, when contacted to endorse a grant of honorarium to Haque, wrote in a letter dated 10 May 1926 to P.H. Dumbel, the then Secretary of the Services and General Department, India Office, " …I wish to make clear that, in my opinion, he (Haque) contributed more than any other member of my staff and contributed in a conspicuous degree to bringing about the perfecting of a system of classification that has stood the test of time and has been accepted by most countries." At the time of final approval of the honorarium, the Home Department (Government of India) noted, "It appears from the information now received that he (Haque) was Sir Edward Henry's principal helper in perfecting the scheme and he actually himself devised the method of classification which is in universal use. He thus contributed most materially to a discovery which is of worldwide importance and has brought a great credit to the police of India.”

On a subsequent request to comment on Haque's fellow Indian police officer who also worked on the project with Henry, Hem Chandra Bose (Bose), Sir Henry wrote in 1930, "The Rai Bahadur (Bose)…has devoted the whole of his official life to perfecting the methods by which search is facilitated and as his labours have contributed materially to great credit.”

Chandak Sengoopta,[5] quotes Sir Douglas Gordon, a former Inspector-General of Police for Bengal from 1938–1942, from his letter to the Times in 1965 stating that Henry had “placed on special duty two Indian Inspectors to work out a formula or set of formulas which would enable prints to be classified…This in due course they succeeded in doing and the result of their labours and ingenuity is the basis of the “Henry” system which he brought with him to London when he was appointed Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard..” Sengoopta went on to say, that Gordon “…strongly implied that they (Haque and Bose) and not Henry created the classification. The full credit for the system, he (Gordon) declared, “rests with the Bengal Police.” Sengoopta further cites a letter to The Times from H.C. Mitchell. The Honorary Secretary of the Indian Police (UK) Association, where Mitchell asserted, “that it had been Haque who, in 1897, had explained the classification to the government committee investigating the utility of fingerprinting.” Michell, in that letter, further stressed that “…the work of Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose should be commemorated and that their names should be on record in India and in this country (UK).” Sengoopta further narrates Mitchell’s report of a presentation of award by Henry to his assembled company of his former Sub-Inspectors in his visit to India in 1912 (whereby Henry accompanied King George V and Queen Mary to the Coronation Durbar in Dehli as a security advisor), where Henry, according to Mitchell, paid tribute to “Sub Inspector of Police, Khan Bahadur Azizul Haque-the man mainly responsible for the new world wide fingerprint system of identification.” Sengoopta reports that “Haque received the title of Khan Shahib from the government in 1913 and that of Khan Bahadur in 1924. Similarly, Bose received the decoration Rai Shahib and Rai Bhadur - the Hindu counterparts of the honours received by Haque. Both also received honoraria of 5,000 rupees each for their contribution to the establishment of fingerprint classification” (Sengoopta, page 144).

Based on the evidence they gathered, Sodhi and Kaur in their recently published book Indian Civilization and the Science of Fingerprinting [6] suggested that Henry’s System of Fingerprint Classification be renamed the Henry-Haque-Bose System of Fingerprint Classification. While this has not yet transpired, their advocacy role, in collaboration with others, like Fahmina Rahman, a writer and historian as well as a great-granddaughter of Azizul Haque, and Michael Harling, a fingerprint historian, who recently wrote an update to his publication "Origins of the New York State Bureau of Identification" for the New York Correction History Society (NYCHS)[7] has resulted in the establishment, by the UK Fingerprint Society, of a research award in the name of Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose.[8] After 100 plus years, Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose are finally getting some recognition for their pioneering work in the development of Henry Classification System, which is still a widely used fingerprinting system throughout the world.


  1. ^ [1] SK Said Baksh, Historical Survey of Fingerprints, Volume, The Detective, IV,No. 1,1963, p 114.
  2. ^ [2] Colin Beavan: Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science, Hyperion, NY, USA, 2001.
  3. ^ [3] Tewari RK, Ravikumar KV. History and development of forensic science in India. J. Postgrad Med 2000,46:303–308.
  4. ^ [4] J.S. Sodhi & Jasjeed Kaur. The forgotten Indian pioneers of fingerprint science, Current Science 2005, 88(1):185–191.
  5. ^ [5] Chandak Sengoopta, Imprint of the Raj: How fingerprint was born in colonial India, Macmillan, 2003
  6. ^ [6] G.S. Sodhi and Jasjeet Kaur,INDIAN CIVILIZATION AND THE SCIENCE OF FINGERPRINTING, Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
  7. ^ [7] Michael Harling, NY Fingerprint History Update: Loose Ends and Coincidences, a special essay for NYCHS
  8. ^ [8] The Fingerprint Society Aziz ul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose prize bY UK Fingerprint Society