The 1900s is where things get really exciting. Science was propelled at an astonishing pace thanks to the adoption of the global electric grid, the invention of television and personal computers, the space race, the internet, and all the everyday advancements we have at our fingertips today. Because this rapid-fire technological revolution is so detailed, we’ll break it up into the early twentieth century and explore mid-1900s to the 2000s in the next part of our series. This is how or previous century began, just a stone’s throw away from where we are today.


  • In July 1901, the Fingerprint Branch of New Scotland Yard (also known as the Metropolitan Police) was created using the Henry System of Fingerprint Classification.
  • In 1903, the New York Civil Service Commission began fingerprinting applicants to prevent fraud. The practice was then adopted by the New York state prison system in regards to criminal identification.
  • In 1904, the U.S. Penitentiary in Kansas and the St. Louis police department both set up fingerprint bureaus. From here, fingerprinting and its various usages, spread like wildfire – leaving their impressions, so to speak, on human history forever.
  • 1936, ophthalmologist Frank Burch had an exciting new idea. He first proposed using iris patterns as an identification method. It was a novel idea that would prove powerful in the second half of the century.

Biometrics was on an unbelievable trajectory throughout this century, leading to spectacular innovations like retinal scanning, facial recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Learn about all of this and more in Part 2 of this series, “Biometrics: Modern History.”