Faulds was a Scottish doctor and missionary and a pioneer of the identification of people through their fingerprints.
Henry Faulds was born on 1 June 1843 in Beith, North Ayrshire. He went to work in Glasgow as a clerk, and then decided to study medicine. He became a missionary and in 1873 he was sent to Japan where he founded and then became the surgeon superintendent of Tuskiji Hospital in Tokyo. He became fluent in Japanese, taught at the local university and was also responsible for founding the Tokyo Institute for the Blind.
In the late 1870s, Faulds became involved in archaeological digs in Japan and noticed on shards of ancient pottery the fingerprints of those who had made them. He began to study modern fingerprints and wrote to Charles Darwin with his ideas. Darwin forwarded them to a relation, Francis Galton. In 1880, Faulds published a paper in 'Nature' magazine on fingerprints, observing that they could be used to catch criminals and suggesting how this could be done. Shortly afterwards Sir William Herschel, a British civil servant working in India, published a letter in 'Nature', where he explained that he had been using fingerprints as a method of signature.
In 1886, Faulds returned to Britain and offered his fingerprinting system to Scotland Yard, who declined the offer. Two years later, however, Galton delivered a paper to the Royal Institution, stating that Herschel had suggested forensic usage before Faulds, under the erroneous impression that his article had been the earlier of the two. This prompted a battle of letters between Faulds and Herschel that would continue until 1917, when Herschel conceded that Faulds had been the first to suggest a forensic use for fingerprints.
After his return from Japan, Faulds worked in London and then as a police surgeon in Staffordshire. He died in March 1930, bitter at the lack of recognition he had received for his work.