On CSI

A Quest for Identity

The Fingerprint in Its Natural Environment

By Doranna Durgin

Secretive and yet persistently present, the wily fingerprint wields an unexpected influence over the human condition . . . and yet its habits and needs are seldom taken into consideration. Now, lift the curtain of mystery over the remarkably hardy fingerprint by exploring its rich history, its favorite haunts, its various hosts, and the best methods for flushing it into plain sight.

Under the hot Miami sun, two CSIs process a raised shack on the edge of the Everglades. The shack is obviously a popular make-out spot, replete with fingerprints and condoms both. Or perhaps it was a popular spot—it will take a while for the odor to fade. Until then, insect repellent can’t begin to compete with the odor of decay.

One of the CSIs is young and Latino, with intense dark eyes now focusing on the task at hand—assessing fingerprint recovery from the worn, painted door of the shack. The other CSI, a neatly dressed blonde, ponders the railing, where porous wood adds challenge. “All right,” she says. “Let’s see what we can find.”

The Fingerprint

Discovery of the Fingerprint: A History

Although obvious to those who know where to look, the fingerprint is so sly, blending so well with its environment, that detailed observation and classification has been slow to occur. Most fingerprints go entirely unobserved, and under usual conditions this is the most natural and even desirable situation. Even now, most visible fingerprints are in grave danger from the cleanly among us, those who prefer the unnaturally smooth  …

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