DNA fingerprinting

Biography of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys studied biochemistry and genetics at Merton College, Oxford. Following an EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Amsterdam where, with Dr Richard Flavell, he was one of the first to discover split genes, he moved in 1977 to the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester where he currently holds the positions of Professor of Genetics and Royal Society Wolfson Research Professor.

Professor Jeffreys’ research at Leicester focuses on exploring human DNA diversity and the mutation processes that create this diversity. He was one of the first to discover inherited variation in human DNA, then went on to invent DNA fingerprinting, showing how it can be used to resolve issues of identity and kinship and creating the field of forensic DNA. The subsequent impact of DNA on solving paternity and immigration cases, catching criminals and freeing the innocent has been extraordinary, directly affecting the lives of millions of people worldwide.

His current work is aimed at trying to understand how variation is generated in human DNA, by developing new and very powerful techniques to detect spontaneous changes in the genetic information as it is transmitted from parent to child.

Professor Jeffreys’ work has received widespread recognition, including his election to the Royal Society in 1986, a Knighthood for services to genetics in 1994 and conferment of the title of Honorary Freeman of the City of Leicester in 1993. Other awards include the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2004), the Lasker Award (2005) and the Heineken Prize (2006). In 2007 he was voted Morgan Stanley Greatest Briton. He is married with two daughters and two grandsons, and enjoys reading unimproving novels and surfing in Cornwall.


Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys took well-deserved retirement in September 2012 after more than 35 years at the University of Leicester.

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