Alphonse Bertillon

If we talk about people who have shown the highest level of commitment and dedication as a lawman, Alphonse Bertillon stands above all. He was born on 22 April 1853. He became a French policeman and a biometrics researcher.

As a Policeman & Biometrics Researcher

Alphonse Bertillon is globally renowned as the first person who introduced the technique of biometrics for investigation purposes. He immediately became a well-known person for his newly introduced concept of biometric investigation techniques.

He applied anthropometry which is a technique that helped him in developing a unique identification based on physical measurements. It was him who made it possible to utilize the field of anthropology as a scientific way of investigation and fact finding. It appeared to be a big leap forward as up until then law enforcement professionals were only able to identify criminals by their names or photographs.

What Is the Bertillon system?

This anthropological technique is now widely known as the Bertillon system and consists of five basic elements encompassing the length and breadth of the head along with the length of the middle finger, left foot and individual’s cubit.

It was Alphonse Bertillon efforts that have now made it possible for the entire world to make use of his technique in photography which is now known as a mugshot.

Like any other technique, the Bertillon system had a few flaws such as it cannot be used in the case of children and women. This is because this technique was made solely for men who have reached the age of physical maturity.

The Role of the Bertillon system In Eliminating the Alley Workers

According to the majority of historians and writers, a large number of black women were working as sex workers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is surprising to know that the Minneapolis Police Department used the Bertillon system to successfully identify alley workers who were involved in wrongdoings which helped them in eliminating them completely from Minneapolis.

It ultimately became one of the biggest challenges for the alley workers to deal with and find a unique way to get rid of the system. As a result, they started using aliases instead of using their real names but it eventually failed and the Minneapolis Police Station succeeded.


Alphonse Bertillon is considered as one of the renowned and accomplished people in the field of Anthropology. Researchers engaged in identifying and devising newer investigative techniques give paramount importance to the Bertillon system.

There are a number of International Journals and research works that are primarily based upon his findings and system. His work has been widely used in a wide number of textbooks with respect to criminology, as well as crime fiction books.

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