DNA fingerprinting pioneer announces retirement from University of Leicester

Sir Alec Jeffreys
Sir Alec Jeffreys Photo: ITV Central News

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who invented the technique of DNA fingerprinting, has announced his retirement.

The technique of DNA finger printing has transformed forensic science and identity testing. It was developed by Professor Jeffreys at the University of Leicester back in 1984. It has since been used in criminal investigations, paternity and immigration disputes, and even conservation biology.

Although all human beings have the same basic DNA, there are minor variations in their sequencing which means it is possible to tell if two samples of DNA are from the same person.

Just a year after the discovery, the first immigration and paternity cases were solved using the technique, and the first identification of identical twins took place.

People who have benefitted from his research have paid tribute to him:

"In 1984 I sat in a prison cell waiting to die for a crime I didn't commit. I read about the work of Sir Alec Jeffreys and I had an epiphany: this could prove my innocence and set me free!"

– Kirk Bloodsworth, wrongly accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a 9-year old girl

"Sir Alec Jeffrey's work was absolutely crucial to the investigation. It was the first time that DNA evidence had been used in a criminal investigation. His tests not only established that one young man was innocent, but that one solitary man had committed both murders....His technique was implemented across the UK, and rapidly spread across the world, and it will continue to have ramifications for years to come. It can reach into the past and solve crimes thought to be impossible to solve. His work is truly remarkable. I think it was the greatest contribution to forensic science and criminal investigation in the 20th Century."

– Former Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker, Head of CID, Leicestershire Police.