- Hand Reading Course (3/33): HISTORY -

- Carl Gustav Carus(1) introduced the first scientific handtype system of classification in a 1846 publication. Carus' systems is founded on the 'functional appearance' of the hand in relationship with the temperament. The system classifies 4 handtypes, some details are metioned in table I-1.
In the 20th century Carus' handtype system was integrated in the work of the Polish psychologist Dr. Charlotte Wolff (2).


Elementairy hand

Motoric hand

Sensitive hand

Psychic hand







Thick + rude

Fleshy + energetic

Relative small



Short + stiff

Longer + flexibel

Slender + flexibel

Slender + flexibel


Not many + thick

Many + deep

Fine + energetic

Fine + like a web


Earthly + common sense

Extravert + jovial

Sensitive + instabile

Imaginary + intellectual

Table A-1: the four handtypes defined by the Carus system of classification.

- Independent of each other, Faulds and Herschel discovered in 1880 that fingerprints are very usefull in matters of personal identification. This discovery concerns a major milstone in the history of the forensic sciences. The study of fingerprint dermatoglyphs was back then a very populair issue among scientists. Among them was Sir Francis Galton. Galton discovered via longitudinal studies that the fingerprints of each single person are unique. Galton discovered that normally the major fingerprint characteristics of a person do not change during a his or her lifetime. And Galtion discovered as well via twin studies and family studies that fingerprints show heritable characteristics.(3)
Figuur A-3: Sir Francis Galton.

- Galton's publictions on these matters can be regarded as the first milestone in the modern science of genetics.(4). The next milestone was the discoveries made by the Down family. Father Down described the major characteristics of Down's syndrome in 1866, and his son R.L. Down discovered in 1906 the relationship between the simian crease and Down's syndrome.(5)

- References:

- 1 - Carus, C.G. Uber Grund und Bedeutung der verschiedene Formen der Hand in verschiedene Personen. 1846.
- 2 - Wolff, Ch. The hand in psychological diagnosis. New York: Philosophical Library Inc., 1952.
- 3 - Gettings, F. The Book of the hand: an illustrated history of palmistry. (p.161). London: Paul Hamlyn Ltd. 1965.
- 4 - Galton, F. Finger prints. London: Macmillan & Co., 1892.
- 5 - Down, R.L. (1909). Discussion on p..65 of Shuttleworth, G E.: Mongolian imbecility. British Medical Journal, 11: p.661, september 11.

- March 2016 update -

A brand new masterclass mini-course in scientific hand reading is available:

Decoding The Language of The Hand:
how to find 36 conditions with just 54 major hand signs!


- Hand Reading Course -


Hand reading synonyms:

palmistry - palm reading - hand analysis - chirology - chiromancy - chirognomy

Martijn van Mensvoort - Hand Research

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