Yesterday I referred to the stripes on zebras being akin to the uniqueness of our fingerprints.

finger print

Fingerprints are essential to proving who we are for each fingerprint is unique, so much so that the fingerprints on one’s right hand are not the same as the ones on the left.  You need to provide (albeit electronically scanned these days) finger prints in order to apply for a passport, a driver’s licence, and – in South Africa – an identity card. They are still widely used to verify the identity of people unable to sign their name as well as, in some work places, to unlock doors.


Then this morning – quite serendipitously – I came across the name of the scientific study of these unique patterns of ridges that occur not only on the inside of our hands, but on the feet too: dermatoglyphics. The term was coined in 1926 by Dr. Harold Cummins from the Greek dermato, skin + glyphein, carve, a choice he is reputed have explained by saying, “The word is literally descriptive of the delicately sculpted skin surface, inclusive of single ridges and their configural arrangements.”


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