Dermatoglyphics is the study of palmar and plantar ridges of the hands and feet. The term “dermatoglyphics” ( dermato = skin, glyphics = carvings: ‘skin carvings’ ) was coined by Dr. Charles Midlo and Dr. Harold Cummins, the Professors of Anatomy at the Tulane University School of Medicine. His research in the 1920s and ’30s was contrary to the prevailing medical wisdom of his day. Twenty years later, when his findings were verified by the scientific establishment, Dermatoglyphics moved from obscurity to acceptability as a diagnostic tool. The hand and feet patterns are unique, fully developed and permanent at birth, they are heavily linked with one’s genetic composition and nervous system. The ridges on our fingers form concurrently with critical brain development in the fetal state between Week 13 and Week 21. Since the 1920′s, dermatoglyphics has been studied in the medical field, especially in relation to genetically linked diseases. A symetry in finger ridges has long been used to pinpoint potential brain deficiencies. Today, over seven thousand articles have been published in medical journals around the world ( including the journal of the AMA, lancet, and others ), and Dermatoglyphics has been used in such diverse fields as a pediatrics Medicine, Genetic Research, Psychiatry and Anthropology.

Medical Diagnosis

Different diseases have different fingerprint patterns associated with them. This has been verified in thousands of independent studies. Cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease are just a few of the long list shown to correlate with fingerprint anomalies. (See The Significance of Dermatoglyphics in Medicine, Sarah B. Holt Ph.D. ,Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, n.d. one of many summary articles available. )


It has been found that people with unusual patterns of behavior; for instance, autism, manic depression, schizophrenia, excessive shyness, retardation, and alcoholism have all shown fingerprint profiles similar to others with like behaviors but highly different from the general population.( A typical example of this type of research can be found in The British Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 136: Manic Depressive Psychosis and Schizophrenia, a Dermatoglyphic Study; Balgir, RS. )


Studies of infants and children have demonstrated the correlation between behavior and dermatoglyphic patterns .Johnson and Opitz, in their famous study of an Iowa city child development clinic ( Clinical Pediatrics, Feb. 1973 ) found such a strong linkage that they concluded that dermatoglyphic inspection ” should be a routine part of the pediatric examination. “

Below is a brief history of dermatoglyhics

  • 1684 Dr. Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) presented Finger Prints, Palms and Soles An Introduction To Dermatoglyphics to the Royal Society
  • 1685 Dr.Bidloo published an anatomical atlas, Anatomia Humani Corporis, with illustrations showing the human figure both in living attitudes and as dissected cadavers
  • 1686 Dr. Marcello Malphigi (1628-1694) noted in his treatise; ridges, spirals and loops in fingerprints
  • 1788 J.C.Mayer was the first to write out basic tenets of fingerprint analysis and theorized that fingerprints were unique
  • 1823 Dr. Jan Purkinje classified the papillary lines on the fingertips into nine types: arch, tented arch, ulna loop, radial loop, peacock’s eye/compound, spiral whorl, elliptical whorl, circular whorl, and double loop/composite.
  • 1832 Dr. Charles Bell (1774-1842) was one of the first physicians to combine the scientific study of neuroanatomy with clinical practice. He published ” The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design.”
  • 1893 Dr. Francis Galton published his book, Fingerprint, establishing the individuality and permanence of fingerprints. The book included the first classification system for fingerprints: Arch, Loop, and Whorl.
  • 1897 Harris Hawthorne Wilder was the first American to study dermatoglyphics.
    He invented the Main Line Index, studied thenar hypothenar eminencies, zones II, III, IV.
  • 1926 Dr. Harold Cummins & Dr. Charles Midlo coined the term “dermatoglyphics.” They showed that the hand contained significant dermatoglyphic configurations that would assist the identification of mongolism in the new-born child.
  • 1936 Dr. Harold Cummins & Dr. Charles Midlo also researched the embryo-genesis of skin ridge patterns and established that the fingerprint patterns actually develop in the womb and are fully formed by the fourth fetal month.
  • 1957 Dr.Walker used the dermal configurations in the diagnosis of mongolism.
  • 1969 John J. Mulvihill, MD and David W. Smith, MD published “The Genesis of Dermatoglyphics” that provides the most up to date version of how fingerprints form.