Friday, 14 February 2014

bertillonage or unfortunate incarceration

Forensic science and data-collection began in response to reforms in French law in 1832, which prevented the branding of criminals (like cattle). First-time offenders were given an indelible mark heretofore and the practise was followed in much of the world (a scarlet letter or compare the punishment of dismembering of some parts of the world).

Absent these visible signs, there was no way to identify a criminal—and likely recidivist, so copyist for the Paris police Alphonse Bertillon, out of frustration and a calling to contain especially anarchists, political hot-heads, conceived of the idea of profiling and a registry (French, fiche) of transgressors and invented the field of biometrics. Adopted world-wide, Bertillon's methods involved the newly invented photographic-documentation with a rigourous regime of weights and measures of different body parts, like the elaboration of the ears and length of the forearm, which projected points of chakras (useful for the police) to remember. Although contributing significantly to the burgeoning industry of photography with the establishment of mug-shots and unending galleries of those to look out for, the method for identity verification was overtaken by the technique of dactyloscopy, finger-printing, for practical reasons as the demands of Bertillon's way were too high, and it was not until the advent of closed-circuit television and facial-recognition software that could automate the cataloging of distinguishing markers that this kind of attention to detail is becoming en vogue again.