Alphonse Bertillon

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Alphonse Bertillon
BirthplaceParis, France
law enforcement officer and biometrics researcher

Bertillon, Alphonse


Born Apr. 22,1853, inParis; died there on Feb. 3, 1914. French criminologist who devised several police methods for solving criminal cases.

Bertillon was the head of the bureau of forensic identification of the Paris prefecture. The system of methods devised by Bertillon for forensic identification (establishing identity) is called Bertillonage in bourgeois criminology. The system included anthropometry, a verbal portrait, descriptive photography (a technical means of portrait photography in which a person’s distinctive features are highlighted very clearly), and a description of a person’s distinctive marks. Beginning in 1890 and until the early 20th century, Bertillonage was used by the police of all countries, but later it was gradually replaced by a new system of criminal registration, fingerprinting. Bertillon appeared in the legal proceedings of the Dreyfus affair as a legal handwriting expert and gave false testimony that ascribed the authorship of a document—the bordereau—to Dreyfus.

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