In earning the Fingerprinting merit badge, Scouts will learn about and use an important technique that is used by law enforcement officers, along with other materials like matching dental records and DNA sampling, to help identify amnesia victims, missing persons, abducted children, and others.


  1. Give a short history of fingerprinting. Tell the difference between civil and criminal identification.
  2. Explain the difference between the automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) now used by some law enforcement agencies and the biometric fingerprint systems used to control access to places like buildings, airports, and computer rooms.
  3. Do the following:
    1. Name the surfaces of the body where friction or papillary ridges are found.
    2. Name the two basic principles supporting the science of fingerprints and give a brief explanation of each principle.
    3. Explain what it takes to positively identify a person using fingerprints.
  4. Take a clear set of prints using ONE of the following methods.
    1. Make both rolled and plain impressions. Make these on an 8-by-8-inch fingerprint identification card, available from your local police department or your counselor.
    2. Using clear adhesive tape, a pencil, and plain paper, record your own fingerprints or those of another person.
  5. Show your merit badge counselor you can identify the three basic types of fingerprint patterns and their subcategories. Using your own hand, identify the types of patterns you see.


Scouting Literature

Chemistry, Crime Prevention, Law, and Photography merit badge pamphlets


  • Beavan, Colin. Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science. Hyperion, 2001.
  • Camenson, Blythe. Opportunities in Forensic Science Careers. Contemporary Books, 2001.
  • Campbell, Andrea. Forensic Science: Evidence, Clues, and Investigation. Chelsea House, 1999.
  • Coppock, Craig A. Contrast: An Investigator's Basic Reference Guide to Fingerprint Identification Concepts. Charles C. Thomas, 2001.
  • Evans, Colin. The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. John Wiley and Sons, 1998.
  • Inman, Keith, and Norah Rudin. Principles and Practice of Criminalistics: The Profession of Forensic Science. CRC Press, 2000.
  • Jones, Charlotte Foltz. Fingerprints and Talking Bones: How Real-Life Crimes Are Solved. Yearling Books, 1999.
  • Jones, Gary W. Introduction to Fingerprint Comparison. Staggs, 2000.
  • Parker, Janice. Forgeries, Fingerprints, and Forensics: Crime. Raintree/Steck Vaughn, 2000.
  • Rainis, Kenneth G. Crime-Solving Science Projects: Forensic Science Experiments. Enslow, 2000.
  • Ramsland, Katherine M. The Forensic Science of C.S.I. Boulevard, 2001.
  • Saferstein, Richard. Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science. 7th edition. Prentice Hall, 2000.
  • Tocci, Salvatore. High-Tech IDs: From Finger Scans to Voice Patterns. Franklin Watts, 2000.
  • University of California at Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science. Fingerprinting. GEMS: Great Explorations in Math and Science, 2000.
  • Walker, Pam, and Elaine Wood. Crime Scene Investigations: Real-Life Science for Grades 6-12. Jossey-Bass, 2000.
  • Wiese, Jim. Detective Science: 40 Crime-Solving, Case-Breaking, Crook-Catching Activities for Kids. John Wiley and Sons, 1996.