British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys is widely considered the father of DNA fingerprinting – a technique that has revolutionised forensic science. In honour of Jeffrey’s extensive career and his retirement last year, Investigative Genetics have launched a special series on DNA fingerprinting. Development Editor for Investigative Genetics Sam Rose spoke with Jeffrey’s about how this technique came about and its impact on society. The full transcribed interview can be found as part of the series here.
“It was only after we got that first DNA fingerprint, or set of fingerprints, that the penny dropped that we’d accidentally stumbled upon a method for individual identification. I think within about a minute of developing that first x-ray film. So a very, very exciting moment where, literally, my entire life changed in the space of about 60 seconds.”
Alec Jeffreys, University of Leicester
Now retired, Jeffreys most recent position was that of professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, UK, where he originally discovered the technique now known as DNA fingerprinting in 1984. Jeffrey obtained his PhD in genetics at the University of Oxford, UK, before moving to the University of Amsterdam to pursue his postdoctoral research into mammalian genes. He then joined the University of Leicester where he established his own lab carrying out work into DNA minisatellities, human recombination and genetic profiling, until his retirement in 2012. During his extensive research career Jeffreys was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and also received a knighthood for his services to science and technology.