An automatic system is described wherein pattern representations of epidermal ridges, such as fingerprints, are uniquely described by the extraction of specific information. Specific information such as ridge contour data, describing the ridge flow in the fingerprint pattern and minutiae data, principally describing ridge endings and bifurcations, are identified and extracted from the fingerprint pattern. Topological data, identifying singularity points such as tri-radii and cores, as well as ridge flow line tracings related to those points are extracted from the ridge contour data. The extracted information is then utilized by the system to automatically perform classification of the fingerprint pattern and/or matching of the fingerprint pattern with patterns stored in a mass file. Identification is automatically achieved by comparing the extracted information with the information stored in the mass file corresponding to previously identified fingerprint patterns. In a simplified version of the automatic system, verification of claimed identity may be achieved by matching the fingerprint pattern with a particular pattern stored in a mass file according to the claimed identity.