It has always struck me as a little strange on Hvar that the island does not promote some of its tourism strengths in its marketing. This is the only island in the world, for example, which has four UNESCO heritages and yet hardly any mention is made of this at all. It is also the island where organised tourism in Europe began in 1868 with the founding of the Hvar Health Society, a fact one struggles to pick up on a visit.
But I have never understood particularly why nothing has been made of the man from Hvar who has influenced the world more than most with a most sensationsal discovery in Argentina in the 19th century, a finding that prevented an innocent man from being falsely convicted of murder, and a discovery which has defined crime-fighting ever since.
Although I knew he was born in Hvar Town, it was only two years ago that I discovered where his waterfront house, complete with plaque, was, and so it was with some joy that I entered Hvar Town last night for the premiere of Fishermen’s Conversations to see a bright new addition to a previously drab wall on the entrance to the town.
Torcida Hvar, no doubt, with a Hajduk fingerprint, celebrating and informing passers by about the man who is known as the father of dactyloscopy.
Ivan Vučetić was born on Hvar on July 28, 1858 and, like so many others in Dalmatia at the time, emigrated to South America at the age of 26 (Croatians in Argentina numbered 150,000 by 1900), settling in Argentina, where there was a significant Hvar community.
Changing his name to the more culturally recognisable Juan Vucetich, the Hvar emigrant started working for the Central Police Bureau in La Plata four years later.
Taking a major interest in recent discoveries in fingerprints, he created the first method of recording the fingerprints of individuals on file, associating these fingerprints to the anthropometric system of Alphonse Bertillon, who had created, in 1879, a system to identify individuals by anthropometric photographs and associated quantitative descriptions. In 1892, after studying Galton’s pattern types, Vucetich set up the world’s first fingerprint bureau.
And so it is that a Hvar boy is known as the father of dactyloscopy. He died in Argentina in 1925. For more on Vučetić (and a picture), click on the link below, and the next time you are arrested and fingerprinted, think fondly of this gorgeous island on the Adriatic…