• Julian Ashbourn


Within this chapter we shall travel through a logical progression, starting with discussion around the natural forms of identity verification practised by animals and humans. The techniques involved are actually quite complex and often involve multi-modal methodologies, sometimes distributed spatially and temporally within the identification process. Such identity verification processes are embedded into everyday activities and transactions, almost subconsciously, and involve impressive feats of memory and information processing, intertwined with elements of learned and inherited experience. Moving the focus to human activities, the idea of biometrics as a relatively new concept is flawed as there exist clear evidence that ancient civilisations utilised similar concepts, albeit in a non-automated manner. In this respect, the Sumerians, Egyptians, Chinese, and others have effectively used biometrics for identity verification purposes. The modernisation of such techniques may be considered the culmination of an interesting thread of fascination with anatomical measurement and human character, which blossomed in the nineteenth century via the work of several pioneering individuals including Franz Joseph Gall, whose interest in whether character was reflected in physical appearance and how the brain might be segmented via function sowed the seeds for what he termed as Cranioscopy but what became more broadly recognised as Phrenology. Cesare Lombrosco moved the thinking forward into the realms of criminology and Adolphe Quetelet brought statistical thinking and methodologies into the fray, establishing, among other things, the Body Mass Index, still effectively used today. Alphonse Bertillon gathered together various measurements to more formally establish criminal anthropometry as a police procedure for the identification of criminals. His system, which he named Bertillonage, was becoming widely used prior to the advent of fingerprinting, which followed naturally from the work of several individuals including Jan Evangelista Purkyne, Juan Vucetich, and Francis Galton. It was Juan Vucetich who really pioneered the use of fingerprints from a policing perspective in Argentina, although the Galton–Henry system, as introduced to Scotland Yard, eventually became pre-eminent. The chapter then moves into modern times with the advent of electronics and the automation thus facilitated. Such developments paved the way for automated identity verification via biometrics, although this was to take some time before being considered a reliable methodology. It is interesting to note the dichotomy between this modern, automated approach and the capabilities of the biological brain and the natural identity verification that this allows in animals. This chapter effectively sets the scene for our deliberations into biometrics and identity management from the broader contemporary systems perspective.


Identity Verification Anatomical Measurement Statistical Thinking Ancient Egyptian Revolutionary Idea 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Verus MundusHertfordshireUK

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