Dr. Alec Jeffreys
Born Jan 9 1950
Patent Number(s) 5,413,908
Alec Jeffreys invented genetic fingerprinting, a powerful technology
that provided new insights for genetic researchers, and resolved life-or-death
questions for law enforcement. It also provided a simple way to establish
family relationships in paternity and immigration disputes, screen for
mutations, identify human remains, and improve animal breeding.
Human DNA contains long strands of molecules that correlate to each
individual's genetic traits. The amount of information coded into DNA
is so vast that it is difficult to examine DNA samples. Jeffreys discovered
a process that detects extremely variable DNA regions, proving that
each human has its own genetic fingerprint.
Users of genetic fingerprinting were able to pursue and identify criminals
who left behind samples of blood, semen, skin or hair after a crime.
Subjecting these DNA samples to genetic fingerprinting made it possible
to conclusively link suspects to the scene of a crime. It also exonerated
numerous people falsely convicted before genetic fingerprinting was
Born in Oxford, England in 1950, Jeffreys studied at Merton College
in Oxford. He conducts his research at the University of Leicester,
where he made his well-known discovery. His work has earned him numerous
honors, including knighthood in 1994.