Dr Faulds and the study of “skin-furrows” in Japan

Or rather, medical missionary Dr Henry Faulds and his pioneering research in to modern day fingerprint technology and the forensic application of fingerprints!

Dr Henry Faulds

Dr Henry Faulds

Faulds (1843-1930) was an Ayrshire man, who, unfulfilled by his work as a clerk, took up study at the University of Glasgow in 1865(-1871), and went on to qualify with a physician’s licence from Anderson’s College.  After working at St. Thomas’, London and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Faulds became a medical missionary firstly with the Church of Scotland, who posted him to Darjeeling, India, and then with United Presbyterian Church, who sent him out to Japan in 1874  as their first medical missionary.

There, Faulds established and ran the Tsukiji hospital, now the site of Saint Luke’s Hospital and Nursing School; he also lectured to Japanese medical students and surgeons introducing many of the developments from home, such as Professor Joseph Lister’s principles of antisepsis;  founded the Tokyo Institute for the Blind, for which he also thought up the concept of a bible with raised letters; and learned Japanese.

Not sure where he found the time, but while on an expedition to an archaeological dig (!), Faulds started what would become his life-long research interest in to modern day fingerprint identification. To find out more, read his International Story biography entry (courtesy of archivist, Rachael Egan).

Faulds’s contribution to Medicine and Medical Science continued to be remembered in Japan, a memorial being erected in 1961 in the grounds of Tsukiji Hospital, which he founded in 1875. The Japanese police adopted the fingerprint system in 1911 – although not sure if this was as a direct result of Faulds’ research?

On 12 November 2004, a plaque was unveiled in Faulds’ birth town of Beith, Ayrshire to honour “the pioneer of fingerprints” at which Yoshihisa Tsukida, Second Secretary of the political section of the Embassy of Japan in the UK, summed up Faulds’ lasting legacy and the importance of continued international research and collaboration: “I am certain that if we all share the spirit of pioneers like Dr Faulds, who over a century ago successfully conducted innovative research in a different cultural atmosphere, we will be able to cooperate with each other, and be able to tackle, not only crimes but also every other issue based on mutual understanding, friendship and confidence.”


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