top of page

September 1 International Day  Fingerprint.

On September 1, 1891, the legal and methodical application of the fingerprint system created by Juan Vucetich in La Plata, Argentina is commemorated. Juan Vucetich is the creator of the first fingerprint classification system in the world and achieved that Fingerprint was universally recognized as an infallible science of human identification and displaced the anthropometric method. Argentina is considered  the cradle of Fingerprint.


Iván Vucetic, (real name) was born on July 20, 1858 in Lesina, a town on the island of Hvar, belonging to the Dalmatian archipelago, a maritime region extended from NW to the SE along the Adriatic, with a Serbo-Croatian population, then belonging to the empire Austro-Hungarian, son of Víctor and Vicenta Kavacevic.


In 1882, coming from overseas, he arrived in Buenos Aires, it was known that the art of his predilection was music. Although he was unpretentious, he wanted to get started immediately in some task.

Shortly after that young man began to work for Obras Sanitarias, where he worked as a foreman; He was in charge of supervising the work of a certain number of workers, showing zeal in the performance of his duty.


Bernardo Calderón, Chief of Police, from May 1883 to June 1884 had the honor of directing the Institution at the time of the inauguration of the building that he currently occupies in La Plata, (in front of Rivadavia Square, a block limited by the streets 2 and 3 and avenues 51 and 53).

The public buildings of the new Buenos Aires capital had been rising rapidly since its foundation (carried out, as is known, on November 19, 1882) and the provincial government had ordered that the authorities of the first Argentine state, which were still carrying out their duties. Positions in the worthy city of Santa María del Buen Ayre (and in the Federal Capital), had to be installed in La Plata before April 30, 1884, when the headquarters left those spaces or capital precincts to settle permanently in La Plata.


In 1888, Vucetich settled in La Plata, joining the Buenos Aires Police cadres, with the monthly allocation of $ 30 national currency. It is repeatedly said as meritorious, true data; although it is necessary to clarify that the meritorious thing then constituted a certain pseudo-official designation that was attributed to the guardian or alphabet police officer, since he knew how to read and write, without any bonus or remuneration supplement (not constituting, therefore, said addition of meritorious any hierarchy other than that of agent in the chain of command or administrative functional responsibility other than that of a simple agent). The meritorious thing, and because of his literacy, may have been put to that old public servant of the force who kept the guard books and other documentation of that time in the various police units.


The meritorious Vucetich, then, and by order of the Chief of Police, Carlos J. Costa, was assigned to the Accounting and Majority Office, headed by Mr. Ernesto M. Boero. And from the month of May of the year 1889, he receives the new assignment in the Statistics office, being appointed in charge of it, as of September 16 (according to conjectures, confirmed by plausible versions and indubitable oral tradition, because Vucetich, not Despite his elementary literacy that European primary education provided him, he already showed that he was endowed with a certain talent, or at least, ease and consequent concerns for mathematics).


As the Anthropometric Identification section depended on this office, Vucetich immediately began to draw up a preliminary draft of its total reorganization (which began to operate in 1890). And in the month of January of the following year, the publication of the Statistics Bulletin begins, at his inspiration and initiative.


It can be remembered that in the middle of this year, 1891, Vucetich will be thirty-three years old. And it is also appropriate to note that this year is called to become a milestone of singular and indisputable scientific significance, in the birthplace of Buenos Aires and with worldwide projection (on the other hand, a basic theme of this exhibition).


In mid-1891, the Chief of Police, captain of the ship Guillermo J. Nunes entrusted Vucetich with the organization of an identification service through the anthropometric system, very widespread and of solid scientific prestige in the native country of its famous founder and promoter. .

It should be noted that the aforementioned Bertillonian System (ordered by Nunes) for the identification and classification of people is based on two assumptions or laws: the first is the immutability of the dimensions and reliefs of certain bones (during adulthood), and the second, the variability of these dimensions in different people (which is why coincidence was very difficult). Such basic dimensions taken into account are reduced to the following (five): one, head length; two, its width, three, the length of the left middle finger, four, the length of the left foot, and five, the length of the left forearm.


Having said this, and returning to the aforementioned temporal scope (1891), it can be assured, in a unanimous version, that, in the middle of it, the engineer Francisco Seguí (legislator, journalist and minister of the Buenos Aires government in the government of Máximo Paz; Seguí was born and died in Buenos Aires, 1855-1935), a cultured man, scholar and scientist of note. He belonged to the Argentine Scientific Society and chaired the Argentine Geographic Institute, also directing the Argentine Geographic Bulletin. Well, this character leaves forgotten in Nunes's office, nothing less than the copy no. 18 (first semester) t 47, of May 2, 1891, of the famous Revue Scientifique (paraissant le samedi, fondée en 1863, revue rose, directeur: M Charles Richet), in which it was published (ps. 557/562 ) the work entitled Antropoligie Les empreintes digital, dapres MF Galton, a publication that dealt with, the review made by the physician and mathematician Henry Crosnier de Varigny (born in the French Hawaiian Islands, in 1855), of the lecture given by Francis Galton on 27 of November of the previous year in the famous Royal Society of London, who later published under the title Guidelines on the marks and impressions of the thumb and fingers.


Galton (born in Birmingham, 1822, and died in London in 1911, was the cousin of Charles Darwin), anthropologist, meteorologist and explorer of several African regions (1852), formulated the theory of anticyclones and invented new cartographic methods, also carrying out a great contribution to statistics, and above all, showed a great passion for the measurement of digital impressions, the color of the eyes and skin, among other concerns, which make him one of the greats of modern biostatistics. He enunciated the three fundamental laws of Fingerprint: perenniality, immutability and infinite diversity. When Vucetich publishes his Comparative Dactyloscopy (as director of the Identification office, a work especially written for the 2nd Latin American Medical Congress held in Buenos Aires from April 3 to 10, 1904 (publication made in Tall. De estabcim. Typographic Jacobo Pauser, La Plata, 1904) stamped on it the following dedication: To the Master Mr. Francis Galton.


Vucetich refers that, when the boss glances at said French publication, and calling his attention to such references on digital prints, when he hands him the copy he tells him that he predicts success in the task of completing, with said procedure, the anthropometric system, and simultaneously, he He predicts that perhaps he will be able to institute a method or system through such fingerprints.

And later Vucetich confesses that he, until then, little, or rather, knew nothing of such impressions; But he added, "penetrated by the transcendental importance of said investigations", he devoted himself entirely, and with exemplary zeal, to the task of obtaining such impressions to use them in the identification service, classifying the cards on the basis of the forty varieties Galtonians, which, in turn, constituted an enlargement of the nine nuclei conceived by Purkinje (it should be remembered that the eminent Czech philosopher and physiologist Juan Evangelista Purkinje or Purkiñe, was born in Libochowitz near Leimeritz, on December 17, 1787 and died in Prague on July 28, 1869, having been professor of anatomy and pathology (University of Prague and Breslau). For some authors, he is considered the legitimate father of fingerprint writers for his Commentary de examine phsiologico organo visus et systematis cutanei, in 1823, work in which it was classified into the nine aforementioned drawings or papillary types: flexure transversae, stria central longitudinalis, st ria obliqua, sinus obliquus, anygdalus, spirula, ellipsis, circulus and vortex duplicatus.


Later Vucetich was to have news of many other men who made universal scientific knowledge prestigious.

Well, the wise man from La Plata immediately set about writing the instructions for the application of the bertillonian-anthropometric system, as well as implementing all the modifications that were necessary for the practical adoption of said system and incorporating digital impressions for the identification service. And all, in a project that, approved in August of the memorable year of 1891, is inaugurated on September 1 of the same.


Thus was born the famous identification office in which the two methods (or systems) were instituted: the anthropometric and the other, that of digital impressions (which, then, Vucetich baptized with the strange name of ichnofalangometric).

As it arises from the (trine) composition, both the phalanx and the metric is easy. Icno, on the other hand, means description (from the Greek and Latin Ichno). Such a system then consisted of 101 types.

The remembered Faulds made a resounding and uncontroversial statement that, for the first time in the world, without exception, Vucetich carried out the legal and methodical application of the system in the Office founded by him in La Plata, on September 1, 1891.


When Vucetich publishes the second edition of his General Instructions for the Province of Buenos Aires filiation system (tall. Sesé, La Plata, 1896), he quotes an opinion by Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873, author of I promessi sposi, among others) , in point to the scientific power that, without a doubt, the System profile has: when an opinion gains a vast and prolonged domain, it expresses itself in all the ways, tries all the exits and goes through all the degrees of persuasion. For this reason, Vucetich's is really a true system, if by such is understood a set of rules or principles linked together (simple, synthetic, clear, well-known, universal and that gives answers to all questions, that clears or discards any perplexity or doubt, which does not offer fissures, objections or replies, except those coming from fools, fools or envious). His General Instructions for the Province of Buenos Aires filiation system (tall. Sesé, La Plata, 1896), cites an opinion by Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873, author of I promessi sposi, among others), on the point of scientific power which, without a doubt, has the profile of a System: when an opinion gains a vast and prolonged domain, it expresses itself in all ways, tries all the exits and goes through all the degrees of persuasion. For this reason, Vucetich's is really a true system, if by such is understood a set of rules or principles linked together (simple, synthetic, clear, well-known, universal and that gives answers to all questions, that clears or discards any perplexity or doubt, which does not offer fissures, objections or replies, except those coming from fools, fools or envious).

It has been proven that Vucetich, after a few months, without any prior knowledge on the subject and in the recent 33 years of life, opens the office.


Immediately proceeds to the identification of 23 defendants at the headquarters, beginning on December 7 with the identification of all the detainees in the La Plata jail, and in 1892, the contingent of aspiring police officers was identified. At the end of that year, 1,462 applicants had been identified, of which 78 were with a record and one with an assumed name.

The wise man recalls (cit. Dactiloscopía Comparada, 129) that the Buenos Aires judicial authorities in criminal matters made an honorable site for fingerprint identification, starting with the North Judicial Department (San Nicolás), whose Criminal Judge Octavio Gonzalez Roura (born in Mercedes, province of Corrientes on February 4, 1869 and died in 1928), and his initiative, obtained from the Supreme Court, the Council of the Attorney General, the adoption of the system agreed on October 4, 1902. This lawyer, is which later integrates -together with Acevedo and Lozano- the drafting commission of the Buenos Aires Code in Criminal Procedure - which came into force in March 1906-, an order that contains not a few precepts referring to the application of the system: digital impressions (art. 259), will identify (278), fingerprint affiliation (279), identified (423), identity, identification, individual fingerprint of the accused (433), identified (440), identified (660), etc. (Cf. Sislán Rodríguez, op.sit, 379).


After this ordinance, Jofré drew up a new Code of Criminal Procedure for the province of Buenos Aires (sanctioned by law 3589 of 1915, which is called today simply: the Jofré Code), which, with modifications, is in force As for the subject of this work, it has not changed one iota in its economy. Thus, in the act of proceeding to the arrest, the Commissioner or Judge will proceed to take the digital impressions (art. 206; today 210), being able to deny the release if the accused has refused to allow himself to take the individual fingerprint (ex 207 infine; 211). Likewise, for the assessment of the indications or presumptions, the body of the crime must be evidenced by means of direct and immediate evidence and the aforementioned subsections or presumptions, which are at least two, except the digital impressions that may be invoked as full evidence ( 256, 259). Said ordinance also provides that, before proceeding to the burial of the corpse (deceased) or immediately after its exhumation, digital impressions will be taken (ex 102; 110). Precept 114 (today152) provides that the witness, if the instructor considers it convenient, or in the case of unknown persons who do not know how to write or do not have an address, digital impressions will be taken that will be added to the files, and also, in Each of the pages of the statement will take the impression of one of the fingers of the witness.


That strange word -icnofalangometry- was later abandoned by Vucetich, although he never discarded the voice identification (it is known that, in law, identity consists in the fact of being a person or thing the same that it supposes or that it seeks, or in philosophy, that to identify is to learn the reason, as different, the things that in reality are the same -such the understanding, the memory and the will, which identifies with each other with the soul-). (Thus, Dr. Francisco Latzina, proposed that said "strange word" be replaced by Dactyloscopy, which he considered to be more euphonic and exact, thus universalizing this new denomination.)


In short, that recognizing each of their own works, unique non-transferable, identical to themselves, because the Lord has marked with his seal the hand of all men, according to the revealing verse: (Bible, Old Testament, Book of Job, 37 , 7)


For that remembered year of 1891, the Inspector Commissioner Eduardo M. Alvárez (in 1893, Commissary of Orders, to assume the leadership of the force) occupied the Head of the Investigation Police Station, who, as well as being interested in studies, investigations and progress of the wise man, he befriends himself, who believes in himself and has a deep faith in the system. And very soon you will see him starring in the litmus test ... consisting of the specific, practical and concrete application of the system.


It is said that Vucetich, without more help than his own, surpassed all the existing methods until then, so it can be said that while building the new system, he had to continue working with the old one.


Vucetich, demonstrated that digital schemes are the necessary elements to establish, in a definitive and durable way, the identity of people in all moments of life, and that this is due, on more than one occasion, to honorable successes to Justice. It is not science, the sage added, that has required that identification have only one means and achieve only one efficacy, but nature. Everything is changeable in life, except the digital scheme, everything is reproducible in the congeners, except the papillary drawing.


His collaborators, friends and disciples (Luis Reyna Almandós, Antonio Herrero and Sislán Rodríguez, among others) without excluding those of these, and including the followers and upstanding contemporary criminalists -who currently fulfill high technical functions in the force- already in valuable publications individual or already in editions in prestigious magazines, they bequeathed significant documentation on the subject and foreign subjects, in addition to the exposition, verification and elucidation of the three famous laws of perenniality, immutability (absolute inalterability) and infinite diversity (variety or variability) (Cfr. Sislán Rodríguez, op. Cit., 101. ff.).


The aforementioned trial by fire took place on the occasion of an event that occurred in the Buenos Aires city of Necochea when the twilight nuances of June 29, 1892 were already disappearing, a fact, by the way, that filled the entire neighborhood with consternation, is tuporous and even frightened. and even the same local police from more than a century ago, not used precisely to such ignominious crimes (such as the murder of innocent and defenseless children). Perhaps, cuatrerismos or abigeatos, some Creole duels, certain petty thefts, gambling or other acts of similar lineage. But to think of such gruesome homicides carried out with such fierce treachery, was to think of the excused. Consequently and along with the perplexity, bewilderment and inevitable indignation, the notorious ineffectiveness of the investigative mechanisms of that time was evident, especially so that the requirements that today can only be given by a serious and objective investigation supplied with Criminalistics could be fully satisfied.


Not so much the why, as the how, with what, when, where, what and who. Almost nothing!

The good will of that old instructor or researcher was not enough, because the proper results were not being achieved. In addition, the investigation was disoriented and regrettably and definitely lost its way, despite intelligence and intuition, especially when not hitting the correct procedures and investigative instruments.


Faced with such a bleak picture, and the news has been communicated to the superiority of the leadership, it highlights in commission the aforementioned Inspector Inspector Alvárez, who once in the place of the fact, or scene of the crime, in the search for traces, footprints and other vestiges , succeeds in highlighting some blood stains (fingerprint) on the door of the house, with which the punishable act is immediately and definitively clarified and, above all, the perpetrator is discovered.


And obviously one of the defendants, the innocent Velásquez (Pedro Ramón Velásquez, a good and hard-working civilian, 45 years old, friend and compadre of the honest and industrious vendor Ponciano Carballo separated from his young 27-year-old wife, Francisca Rojas, was charged with the death of her godchildren, the minors of 6 and 4 years of age respectively, Ponciano (or Ernesto) and Francisca (or Teresa) Carballo y Rojas, murdered that fateful evening of June 29, 1892. cer of the 29 of June 1892.


Later he would end up confessing his authorship and the reasons -or no reasons- that the mother had for committing such a shocking filicide, wounding herself, simulating an attack and accusing a humble neighbor of the place of the authorship of the act (which will trigger so tragically the romance of Francisca with José Castellanos).


Thus, we can affirm that Juan Vucetich would be the first to introduce the principles of the Scientific Police in the province of Buenos Aires.

So far, history wants Vucetich, with his young 33 years of life, to have obtained a success that not in vain has transcended the limits or borders of his adoptive nation (Argentina).


ENROLLMENT  # 9000502756

Nit registration. 900473002-9

Legal Status 10264,


bottom of page