Sir William James Herschel, 2nd Baronet (9 January 1833 – 24 October 1917) was a British officer in India who used fingerprints for identification on contracts. He was born in Slough in Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire), a son of the astronomer, John Herschel. He lived at Warfield in Berkshire.
Herschel is credited with being the first European to note the value of fingerprints for identification. He recognized that fingerprints were unique and permanent. Herschel documented his own fingerprints over his lifetime to prove permanence. He was also credited with being the first person to use fingerprints in a practical manner. As early as the 1850s, working as a British officer for the Indian Civil Service in the Bengal region of India, he started putting fingerprints on contracts.
In 1858, Herschel used whole handprints as a signature on contracts, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which changed Bengal directly to British control (the British Raj, ending control by the British East India Company). Rajyadhar Konai was one of the first people Herschel fingerprinted as a means of identification.