Ivan Vucetic, Hvar Native And Fingerprint Sleuth, Turns 160 Today

Total Croatia News

July 20, 2018 — One of Hvar’s most influential sons — and criminals’ worst enemies — Ivan Vucetic would have celebrated his 160th birthday today.

Every budding sleuth, crime novelist, detective and TV police drama writer, pay homage. One of your heroes would have turned 160 today.

Ivan Vučetić, born July 20, 1858, is one of the lesser-known native sons of a country that produced the likes of Nikola Tesla. Yet he is the father of modern dactyloscopy — the analysis and classification of fingerprints — he has had no less of an impact.

Croatians have a history of causing seismic shifts in history and science without much fanfare. From Ruder Bosković’s advances in astronomy to Ante Maglica’s flashlight, the country has a knack for unassuming heroes Vučetić is no different. He is credited with making the first positive fingerprint-based identification of a criminal in 1892.

He moved from Dalmatia, then a part of the Habsburg Empire, to Argentina, leaving behind his family of barrel makers. Vučetić founded the Center for Dactyloscopy in Buenos Aires and began pioneering a then-novel method of identifying criminals using their fingerprints.

Vučetić is credited as the first to identify fingerprints via classification marks. His methods weren’t immediately accepted, however. He founded the publication of his own study and endured a strong blowback. Some claim the ensuing stress caused medical problems, including an ulcer which plagued the rest of his life.

The first successful fingerprint case involved a mother, Francisca Rojas, who killed her two children and stabbed herself in the neck. When police arrived, she tried to blame an outside attacker.

Vučetić used a bloody fingerprint to connect Rojas to the murder of her own children. Two successive cases were also solved via fingerprints. It set the stage for countless successful arrests, as well as the best court and crime dramas.

Argentine cops quickly began using Vučetić’s methods. It was soon adopted by police forces around South America then eventually the world.

Vučetić’s legacy is honored in Croatia primarily with a bust in Hvar’s eponymous city, his birthplace. The Center for Forensic Examinations in Zagreb is also named after him, as well as a police academy in La Plata.

He died in Dolores, Argentina, on Jan. 25, 1925. His crime-busting tactics, however, live on.


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