Dermatoglyphics, a subdiscipline of palmistry that attempts
to discern personality from the study of the epidermal ridges
(especially the fingerprints) of the hand, grew out of the study
of the papillary ridges on the hands and feet in the 1820s by
Johannes Evangelista Purkinje, a Czech physiologist. He developed
a nine-pattern classification system of fingerprints, which
would be picked up late in the century and applied to the popular
use of fingerprints as a means of individual identification by
In 1926, Harold Cummins, a professor of anatomy at Tulane
University, coined the term dermatoglyphics, which he
first used in a paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The initial paper grew into a book, Finger Prints, Palms and
Soles An Introduction to Dermatoglyphics (1943). Cummins work
would have been less interesting had he not developed an interest
in the psychology revealed in the patterns in the hand
and become aware of dactylomancy, the practice of predicting
the human condition and even the future by interpreting the
loops and whorls of the fingerprints.
Only later did Western scientists become aware that there
was a long history in the East of dermatoglyphics and that Western
palmists had become interested earlier in the twentieth
century. It was mentioned by William Benham in his famous
1900 book, The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading, and became a
matter of intensive research by Benhams student, Noel Jaquin,
in the 1930s. As early as 1933, he speculated that the whorl pattern
that he had found present in an unusually high number
of criminals indicated a moral defect in the individual. He
eventually developed more neutral psychological associations
for each major pattern type. Through the 1950s and 1960s,
Jaquin and his associate Beryl Hutchinson at the Society for
the Study of Physiological Patterns created a large database
of fingerprints to pursue this study. Hutchinsons book, Your
Life in Your Hands (1967), was followed in the 1970s by two
books by American psychic Beverly Jaegers.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century, numerous
works on dermatoglyphics were published and the field became
an established part of palmistry. In the more recent works, dermatoglyphics
has been integrated into the more popular study
of the lines and mounds of the palm rather than used as a separate
mean of personality interpretation.
Campbell, Edward C. Fingerprints & Palmar Dermatoglyphics.
Hutchinson, Beryl. Your Life in Your Hands. London Sphere,
Jaegers, Beverly C. You and Your Hand. Creve Cour, Mo.
Aries Productions, 1974.
Jaquin, Noel. The Hand of Man. London Faber, 1933.