The scientific basis of friction ridge identification has evolved over many years, even centuries. Scientific researchers, such as the people whose names are mentioned below, have studied the evolution of friction skin, the anatomical formation of friction ridges, the stages of friction ridge development on the human fetus and, most importantly, explain differential growth (random physical stresses and pressures) of friction ridges which is the major premise of friction ridge identification.
Just to name a few...
J.C.A. Mayer (1788)
During the 1700's, Mayer was the first to recognize that although specific friction ridge arrangements may be similar, they are never duplicated.
Arthur Kollmann (1883)
In the late 1800's, Kollmann of Hamburg Germany, was the first researcher to address the formation of friction ridges on the fetus and the random physical stresses and tensions which may have played a part in their growth.
Inez Whipple (1904)
Ms. Whipple was a graduate from Brown University Rhode Island and also graduated from Smith College with a Masters of Art degree. She taught highschool biology for 4 years before taking on a teaching position with the Zoology Department at Smith College. In 1904, Inez Whipple published a paper that is considered by some as a landmark in the field of genetics and ridgeology. "The Ventral Surface of the Mammalian Chiridium - With Special Reference to the Conditions Found in Man" suggests that the development of the surfaces of the hands and feet (chiridia) of all mammals are similar to some degree. Her paper has certainly given us an insight into the possible evolutionary process of volar skin development on mammals.
Harris Hawthorne Wilder, Ph.D. (1918)
After graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts, Harris Hawthorne Wilder taught biology for three years at a Chicago high school. In 1889 he decided to concentrate his studies on anatomy at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He received a Ph.D. after two years and then returned to North America. In 1892 he accepted the position of Professor of Zoology at Smith College Massachusetts. His research included studies on morphology, methodology of plantar and palmar dermatoglyphics, genetics and racial differences.
In 1918 Wilder and Bert Wentworth, a former Police Commissioner of Dover New Hampshire, published a book "Personal Identification". In this book, Wilder describes the anatomical formation of friction ridges. He also describes how random physical stresses and pressures, in addition to genetics, are responsible for friction ridge formation - "...all the infinite possibilities in the formation of the ridges are widely open in each individual case, so that it is quite safe to say that no two people in the world can have, even over a small area, the same set of details, similarly related to the individual units." Wilder's statement supports the primary basis for friction ridge identification being that fingerprints are unique.
Harold Cummins (1929)
A Professor of Anatomy and Assistant Dean of the School of Medicine at Tulane University in Louisiana. In 1929 Cummins published "The Topographic History of the Volar Pads in the Human Embryo". In this paper, Cummins describes the formation and development of volar pads on the human fetus. In 1943 he co-authored a book entitled "Finger Prints, Palms and Soles - An Introduction to Dermatoglyphics". He refers to his paper in this book and includes the following in Chapter 10 "Embryology":
"All fetuses develop pads in conformity to the morphological plan. There is considerable variation in the time relations of the appearance and regression of pads... " (page 179)
"The various configurations (of friction ridges) are not determined by self-limited mechanism within the skin. The skin possesses the capacity to form ridges, but the alignments of these ridges are as responsive to stresses in growth as are the alignments of sand to sweeping by wind or wave...Volar pads in the normal fetus are sites of differential growth, each being responsible for production of one of the local configurations comprised in the morphologic plan of dermatoglyphics. If a pad does not completely subside prior to the time of ridge formation, its presence determines a discrete configurational area." (pages 184-185)
Alfred Hale (1952)
Alfred Hale was an associate of Harold Cummins at Tulane University. In 1952 he published a paper called "Morphogenesis of the Volar Skin in the Human Fetus". His paper documents the actual stages of friction ridge development in addition to describing friction ridge skin formation on the human fetus.
Hale states as one of his conclusions that "Differential growth plays the major role in the establishment of the morphology of volar skin. Stresses arising out of differences in growth rate condition the alignment and fusion of the ridge units, thereby establishing the primary ridge. Increasing surface area demands the reproduction of ridges. This is manifested in the adult by the various minutiae."
In summary...scientific research (including hundreds of years of observation by scientific researchers and friction ridge identification specialists) has played a significant role in supporting all premises of friction ridge identification.