Daniel Asen

Daniel Asen


daniel.asen [at] rutgers.edu



Office Location

328 Conklin Hall
175 University Avenue
Newark, NJ 07102

Office Hours

On Leave, Fall 2023

Daniel Asen is a historian of modern China who teaches East Asian history at the Rutgers-Newark history department. Dr. Asen’s research focuses on the history of forensic science in 20th-century China. He is currently researching the various ways that friction-ridge skin – fingerprints especially, but also palm patterning – has been used in criminal investigation, state surveillance, and scientific research (dermatoglyphics) in China during the Republican period and People’s Republic of China. Dr. Asen is also writing a biography of Frank Yee (Yu Xiuhao 余秀豪), an American-trained police expert in Nationalist China whose life, career, and travels present a unique perspective on the rise of the modern security state in China and the United States.

Dr. Asen currently serves as Undergraduate Director of History. Feel free to contact him for advising in the History major or minor or for more information about these programs.


“Standard Grant: Fingerprinting in Twentieth Century China from Racial, Political and Scientific Perspectives.” NSF Science, Technology, and Society Program Award #1654990, 2017-2021.

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2013


PhD, Columbia University, 2012.


  • History of Fingerprinting and Dermatoglyphics

“Knowing Individuals: Fingerprinting, Policing, and the Limits of Professionalization in 1920s Beijing.” Modern China 46, no. 2 (2020): 161-192. Link (free access).

“Fingerprints and Paternity Testing: A Study of Genetics and Probability in Pre-DNA Forensic Science.” Law, Probability and Risk 18, nos. 2-3 (2019): 177-199. Link (free access).

“‘Dermatoglyphics’ and Race after the Second World War: The View from East Asia.” In Global Transformations in the Life Sciences, 1945–1980, edited by Patrick Manning and Mat Savelli. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018.

“Secrets in fingerprints: clinical ambitions and uncertainty in dermatoglyphics.” CMAJ 190, no. 19 (2018): E597-E599. Link (free access).

  • History of Forensic Medicine in China

“Forensic Pluralism and the Dead Body in Early 20th-Century China.” Academic Forensic Pathology 11, no. 1 (2021): 41-51. Link (free access).

“Forensic Medicine.” In The Making of the Human Sciences in China: Historical and Conceptual Foundations, edited by Howard Chiang. Brill, 2019.

“Song Ci (1186 –1249), ‘Father of World Legal Medicine’: History, Science, and Forensic Culture in Contemporary China.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society 11, no. 2 (2017): 185-207.

Death in Beijing: Murder and Forensic Science in Republican China. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

  • Other

Co-authored with David Luesink. “Globalizing Biomedicine through Sino-Japanese Networks: The Case of National Medical College, Beijing, 1912–1937.” In China and the Globalization of Biomedicine, edited by David Luesink, William H. Schneider, and Zhang Daqing. University of Rochester Press, 2019.

Teaching resources

Fingerprinting in the Modern World

This website provides resources for teaching the history of fingerprinting in secondary and college-level humanities, life sciences, and forensic science classes. 


Interviewed for “FORENSICS: The Beginning” (September 17, 2022) episode of Patented: History of Inventions podcast. Link.