(July 20, 1858 – January 25, 1925)
Ivan Vučetić (July 20, 1858 – January 25, 1925) was a Croatian-born Argentine anthropologist and police official who pioneered the use of fingerprinting.
Vucetich was born as Ivan Vučetić at Hvar in Dalmatia (then Habsburg Monarchy, now Croatia). In 1882, he emigrated to Argentina.
Argentine police adopted Vucetich's method of fingerprinting classification and it spread to police forces all over the world. Vucetich improved his method with new material and in 1904 published Dactiloscopía Comparada ("Comparative Dactyloscopy"). He traveled to India and China and attended scientific conferences to gather more data.
Juan Vucetich died in Dolores, Buenos Aires.
Born on the 20th of July 1858 on the island of Hvar (then Lesina in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy) as the eldest of 11 children (of which only five survived into adulthood) to barrel maker Viktor and is wife Vincenza Covacevich, he was entered into the birth register under the name of Giovanni Antonio Vucetich.
Assisting his father in the barrel making trade (a part of whose tools are preserved at the Hvar Heritage Museum) he also received an education from Franciscan monk Bonagracije MarojeviE, who held a Teacher’s Academy, where he gained at an early age literacy and a knowledge of the Italian language and music. It would be an integral part of his life until he passed away: serving in the Austro-Hungarian army in the 1880s he is said to have early on composed music for the Military Orchestra in Pula, and the Hvar Municipal Orchestra which received him with a rendition of one of his works during a visit to his native Hvar in 1913). Also, having founded a police orchestra in Argentina in 1900, he continued to compose mazurkas (“Ayes de un alma” - “A Cry From The Soul”), waltzes (“Rio del Danubio” - “The River Danube”), polkas (“Siempre pensando a ti” - “I Always Think Of You”), antiphons (“Jardin cerrado-Hortus Coclusus” - “The Locked Garden”) and others.
With younger brother Martin (and a few friends) Ivan Vučetić on 24 February 1884 set sail for our most numerous, and possibly also the oldest, settlement of Croatian emigrants (most coming from Dalmatia and the northern Croatian seaboard) on the South American continent, Argentina.
After his fi rst 4 years of employment at the large state canalisation and waste water public works company in Buenos Aires (Obras sanitarias de la Nacion), he settles in the city of La Plata founded in 1882 and, as he was literate, in the meantime learned Spanish. On 14 November 1888 he fi nds employment as a trainee (meritorio) at the central police department in the province of Buenos Aires. By the next year he had already become the head of the Bureau of Statistics and in March of 1891 launched the "Monthly Bulletin of Statistics" (Buletin Mensual de la Estadistica) with the aim of publishing data from his offi ce, at the same time promoting the implementation of the, at the time very widespread anthropometric research (initiated by Italian anthropologist Cesare Lambroso in 1872 with whom Vučetić corresponded by the end of the century), especially after police chief N. G. J. Nunes in 15 July of 1891 entrusted him with establishing a "service for the implementation of Bertillon’s anthropometry" (established in Paris in 1883). This system of measurement included a comparison of body height, the span of outstretched arms, the size of the head, and the infl uential Alphonse Bertillon managed, in spite of its numerous drawbacks, to impose it around the world. The earliest data on various forms of lines, i.e. depressions on the palm and soles of the feet, and protrusions on the skin that differentiate individuals originate in Asia, and appear in written documents four thousand years ago among the Assyrians and Babylonians as the so-called supur (sign of the writer). In ancient Greece and Rome we fi nd no traces of an awareness of personal designations; it was only in the 18th century that an awareness grew of differences between both papillary ridges and skeletons. After English administrative clerk William Herschel in 1860 in India used fi ngerprints to identify fugitive prisoners, and Scottish physician Henry Faulds (who later recognised Ivan Vučetić and stated that it was he in fact that had been the fi rst in the world to legally and methodically implement his system) in 1880 published an article on the practical identifi cation of criminals using fi nger prints in Japan and in it proved that no two prints are identical, Ivan Vučetić came by a work by British anthropologist Sir Francis Galton (a relative of Charles Darwin) entitled Finger Prints. In the work he studied, described and scientifi cally processed the prints of papillary ridges dividing them into three basic groups; arches, loops and whorls, and established the three basic principles of dactiloscopy; durability, immutability and infi nite diversity In his work, however, he did not include the practical implementation of his discovery, nor did he work out a suitable system of classification.
It was only in 1891 that Ivan Vučetić first undertook a classifi cation of the prints of the fi ngers of the left and right hand by groups, give them classifi cation designations and created a template for ten-digit fi ngerprinting, the so-called dactiloscopic fi che (published in the "System of Identifi cation - Sistema de fi liacion" on 1 October 1896 - the publication of which he fi nanced himself - and in which he confi dently, in spite of immense opposition and repudiation, defended his method, an effort that saw his health deteriorate - he suffered from a ulcer until his death and was struck down by tuberculosis).
His dactiloscopic formula had the form of a fraction using a combination of eight signs (4 numbers and 4 letters): the designated arches with the letter A (arco) and the number 1, internal loops with the letter I (presilla interna) and the number 2, and outer loops with the letter E (presilla externa) and the number 3, and a whorl with the letter V (verticulo) and the number 4. In that way he arrived at a practically applicable classifi cation system of the prints of papillary ridges and set the foundation of a new science which he in 1894 called "dactiloscopy" (instead of the fi rst name composed of three Greek words, "icnophalangometry", and which contained 101 fi ngerprint types) following the suggestion of Argentinean mathematician Francisco Latzin (born in Brno, also in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy), after the offi ce for identifi cation was shut down that same year.
A few days before he turned 33 years of age, on 8 July Ivan Vučetić used a bloody fi ngerprint on a door from the scene of a crime (sent to him by inspector Eduardo M. Alvarez), to uncover the murderer of a six-year-old boy and a fouryear- old girl: the famous "Rojas Case", which entered the annals of forensic science around the world, shook the Argentinean town of Necochea in 1892. The accused villager Pedro Velasquez, divorced from Francisca Rojas, persistently denied committing the crime: the 27-year-old mother had killed her sleeping children. After two more cases were solved using fi ngerprinting, the method was confirmed, and on 1 May of 1893 the government of the province of Buenos Aires announced that fi ngerprinting was to be included in the system of anthropometry, as was published in the monthly bulletin from the Legislative Assembly.
On January 1st 1893 Ivan Vučetić publishes his first work: "General Instructions For the Anthropometric System", in which he cites the research and classifi cation of F. Galton, who is responsible for seeing the introduction of dactiloscopy in England in 1901 (admissible as evidence in court in 1905), in Austria-Hungary in 1902, in Germany in 1903 (in Hamburg the chief of police Dr. Gustav Roscher introduced his own system of classification, known to this day and named after him).
On June 9th 1894 police chief Lozano approves Vučetić's proposal to set up a police research library in La Plata, and appoints him director, and on 22 June numerous delegates to the provincial assembly demand that a law be passed that would award Vučetić with 5,000 Argentinean pesos for his work.
On 1 January 1896 Argentina abandons "anthropometry" and introduces the "General Register of Citizens", based on dactiloscopy, as the offi cial system.
From March of 1901 when Ivan Vučetić exhibits his dactiloscopic system for the fi rst time as a police delegate from La Plata at the 2nd Latin America Scientifi c Congress in Montevideo, his method was introduced and bureaus established across South America: On 4 October of 1902 the provincial Supreme Court orders that data be sought from the Bureau of Identifi cation in all criminal procedures, and that same year the Brazilian Congress on 20 December offi cially introduces Vučetić's identifi cation system, Chile in 1903, and on 20 October 1905 at a meeting of 6 South American police departments presided over by Ivan Vučetić a proposal was accepted to establish a special personal data identification sheet.
In 1904 when his most signifi cant work, "Dactiloscopia comparada" (Comparative Dactiloscopy) was published Zagreb too introduced the dactiloscopic fi ngerprinting of inmates (although they were only classifi ed by 1906 using the already mentioned Roscher system). That same year a congress of physicians in Buenos Aires conferred an award to him, and in a letter sent to him on 24 April physician and forensic scientist Alexandre Lacassagne (born on the same year as the already mentioned F. Latzin - 1843) called his system Vucetichisme, a name that became customary later on with numerous authors.
At the same time he demonstrated his selfless care for others, establishing the Drop of Milk association in 1905 to care for the children of police offi cers who fell in the line of duty. The organisation grew far beyond its original concept and went on to become a large humanitarian foundation for needy children.
Recognition of Vučetić's method also came from Europe: Italy, France Norway, Spain, and he was made an honorary member of many scientifi c academies and institutions: on 29 January 1909 his second homeland of Argentina awarded him the title of Dactiloscopy Expert - perito identifi cador after which an Act of 1911 introduced the legal requirement to establish a dactiloscopic system registry for the entire Argentinean population.
A one-time pension payment of 25,000 Argentinean pesos allowed him to achieve a great desire of his, and in 1912 he embarked on a scientifi c journey through North America, Asia and Europe, visiting 18 countries and 43 cities. He learned of the work being carried out in other bureaus and passed on his own experience to them.
He had by then already been widowed twice (Delisa Damiani 1888, Lola Etcheverry 1903), and married for a third time in 1907 (Maria Cristina Flores) he had four daughters (Maria Teresa, Maria Debora, Maria Teresita, Celia Josefi na) and one son (Juan). They all went on to become respected citizens of Argentina At the time he entered the Austro-Hungarian monarchy by way of Trieste and visited his native Hvar (still called Lesina) where he met with his many relatives and mother. On the return journey he wished to meet in Paris with his persistent repudiator A. Bertillon who, it is alleged, did not wish at all to meet him.
Parque Juan Vucetich in La Plata, Argentina
Upon his return to Argentina (with a pension of 300 dollars a month) Vučetić gradually withdrew from active life: he dedicates himself to writing and collecting precious scientifi c material he granted on 16 June 1923 to the Faculty of Legal and Social Sciences at the University of La Plata, which formed the foundation for the establishment on 11 October 1924, a few months before his death on 25 January 1925, of a police museum, the Museo Policial, in the city of Dolores featuring a Vučetić memorial room.
In honour of Ivan - Juan Vucetich a police school (academy) founded in Rosario, a place not far from La Plata, on 27 June 1941 bears his name; a small settlement there is also named after him. The Ivan Vučetić institute of forensic sciences was founded within the Faculty of Law in Split in 1968. A centre for forensic research, established in 1953 within the interior ministry was in 1997 named the Ivan Vučetić centre.
Often, almost like a rule in life, our aspirations in life and the convictions we defend are faced with resistance, misunderstanding and envy, both from individuals and from society in general: true value, nevertheless, overcomes the fi lter of time and it is indeed with the distance afforded by time that far-reaching implications are made clear... The 150th anniversary of the birth of Ivan Vučetić is an opportunity to, at least in part, repay our debt and express our gratitude for the bridges he created on scene of global history in linking Croatia and Argentina!
In his honor, the La Plata police academy has been named Escuela de Policia "Juan Vucetich" (Juan Vucetich Police Academy), and an eponymous museum was also founded. The police Center for Forensics Examinations (Centar za kriminalistička vještačenja "Ivan Vučetić") in Zagreb, Croatia is also named after him. The Croatian city of Pula has a memorial marker to Vucetich, owing to his service there while in the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
Argentine biographers describe Ivan Vučetić / Juan Vucetich with great wonder as a multitalented fi gure: as an inventor, musician, writer and philanthropist whose contribution to global science history is much more complex than simply recognition at the level of forensic science. By his discovery of the application of fi ngerprinting Ivan Vučetić / Juan Vucetich demonstrated that everything in life is subject to change but the digital scheme; everything is renewable within the same species except the fingerprint!
By reducing the three renowned rules of dactiloscopy (according to F. Galton) - these being durability, immutability and infi nite diversity - into a strict science, Ivan Vučetić / Juan Vucetich has provided humanity an opportunity to emphasise identity and safeguard personality through the fi ngerprint as a humanity of individuals that may be similar, but never the same!
The fingerprint is the personal seal of every living being, confi rmation of its, and only its, eternal singularity throughout its life, which has in transcendental reflection seen the citation of a passage from the Old Testament’s Book of Job (37:7): Qui in manu omnium hominum signat ut noveri singuli opera sua (He sealeth up the hand of all men, that every one may know his works), and a new kind of consideration of Vucetich's legacy.
1. ^ Memorial marker to Ivan Vučetić unveiled
2. ^Ljerka Galic, prof.