The young man suffered nose-bleeds and migraine headaches, lacked social skills, and seemed to have no direction in life. In , when Bertillon was twenty-six, his father arranged a job for him as an assistant clerk in the criminal records office of the Paris Police Department where he would be transferring arrest and criminal background data from various sources onto standard forms. For a man of his potential, it was a repetitive and mindless job, but because Bertillon was eager to support himself and become independent from his father, he was grateful for the employment opportunity. Bertillon soon realized, however, that because there was no organized filing system, it was impossible to retrieve any specific information, rendering the records collection virtually useless.

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Biography[ edit ] Bertillon was born in Paris. Several years later, he was discharged from the army with no real higher education, so his father arranged for his employment in a low-level clerical job at the Prefecture of Police in Paris.

Thus, Bertillon began his police career on 15 March as a department copyist. Being an orderly man, he was dissatisfied with the ad hoc methods used to identify the increasing number of captured criminals who had been arrested before. This, together with the steadily rising recidivism rate in France since , [3] motivated his invention of anthropometrics.

His road to fame was a protracted and hard one, as he was forced to do his measurements in his spare time. Bertillon also created many other forensics techniques, including the use of galvanoplastic compounds to preserve footprints , ballistics , and the dynamometer , used to determine the degree of force used in breaking and entering. The nearly year-old standard of comparing 16 ridge characteristics to identify latent prints at crime scenes against criminal records of fingerprint impressions was based on claims in a paper Bertillon published in France.

Bertillon and the Dreyfus Affair[ edit ] Bertillon was a witness for the prosecution in the Dreyfus affair in and again in He testified as a handwriting expert and claimed that Alfred Dreyfus had written the incriminating document known as the "bordereau".

Both courts martial evidently accepted this, and Dreyfus was convicted. The verdict of the second court martial caused a huge scandal, and it was eventually overturned. Bertillon was by many accounts regarded as extremely eccentric. Bertillon System[ edit ] The specific anthropological technique practiced by Bertillon is often called the Bertillon System.

These methods of identification were combined into a system for law enforcement officials to access information and images quickly.

Although the system was based in scientific measures, it was known to have its flaws. For example, it may not have been able to accurately apply to children or women, as it was mostly designed for men who had reached full physical maturity and had short hair. The system soon became used as a tool to police and categorize these women. In order to bypass the system many black women would use aliases instead of their real names in order to obtain agency over their criminalization.

Her mugshot is currently located in the St. Paul police department archives. Bertillon is also referenced in the Caleb Carr novel The Alienist. The Isaacson brothers, who are detectives, mention that they are trained in the Bertillon System. Bertillonage is mentioned in Chapter 4 and in an appendix of the mystery novel, The Assassin in the Marais, by Claude Izner. Bertillon is referenced in the short story, "Repent, Harlequin!

Bertillon is the main character of the third episode of Czech television series The Adventures of Criminology called "Bertillonage". Bertillon is also mentioned in the second episode of the seventh season of FX television series Archer. Bertillon was also referenced in the American television series, Elementary a modern take on Sherlock Holmes , season 2, episode 17 Ears To You. Dooley" , reprinted in Mr.



Careful observation and patience will reveal the truth. What was needed was a way to retrieve images and information quickly. In , Alphonse Bertillon invented a method that combined detailed measurement and classification of unique features with frontal and profile photographs of suspects—and which recorded the information on standardized cards in orderly files. Each principal heading was further subdivided into three classes of "small," "medium" and "large. His system depended on a complicated filing method that cross-referenced a standardized set of identifying characteristics, making the information retrievable.



Courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Image 1 of 1 Alphonse Bertillon — Alphonse Bertillon — , the son of medical professor Louis Bertillon, was a French criminologist and anthropologist who created the first system of physical measurements, photography, and record-keeping that police could use to identify recidivist criminals. Before Bertillon, suspects could only be identified through eyewitness accounts and unorganized files of photographs. Bertillon began his career as a records clerk in the Parisian police department. His obsessive love of order led him to reject the unsystematic methods used to identify suspects and motivated him to develop his own method, which combined systematic measurement and photography.

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