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History of Biometrics

The term "biometrics" is derived from the Greek words bio (life) and metric (to measure).

Biometrics is becoming an interesting topic now in regards to computer and network security, however the ideas of biometrics have been around for many years. Possibly the first known example of biometrics in practice was a form of finger printing being used in China in the 14th century, as reported by explorer Joao de Barros. He wrote that the Chinese merchants were stamping children's palm prints and footprints on paper with ink to distinguish the young children from one another. This is one of the earliest known cases of biometrics in use and is still being used today.

In the 1890s, an anthropologist named Alphonse Bertillion sought to fix the problem of identifying convicted criminals and turned biometrics into a distinct field of study. He developed 'Bertillonage', a method of bodily measurement whichgot named after him. The problem with identifying repeated offenders was that the criminals often gave different aliases each time they were arrested. Bertillion realized that even if names changed, even if a person cut his hair or put on weight, certain elements of the body remained fixed, such as the size of the skull or the length of their fingers. His system was used by police authorities throughout the world, until it quickly faded when it was discovered that some people shared the same measurements and based on the measurements alone, two people could get treated as one.

After this, the police used finger printing, which was developed by Richard Edward Henry of Scotland Yard, instead. Essentially reverting to the same methods used by the Chinese for years. However the idea of biometrics as a field of study with usefull identification applications, was there and interest in it has grown.
Today we have the technology to realise the aims, and to refine the accuracy of biometric identification, and therefore the possibility of making it a viable field.

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