Inventor of genetic fingerprinting Sir Alec Jeffreys wins Copley Medal

  • @SteveAConnor

The inventor of genetic fingerprinting, which has transformed forensic science since it was discovered 30 years ago, has been awarded the oldest scientific prize in Britain.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who in 1984 discovered a method of showing the variation in the DNA of individuals, will receive the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, which has been awarded to Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Sir Alec, who made the discovery when he was a genetics researcher at Leicester University, showed that the technique can be used to prove biological relationships between people who share similarities in certain repetitive sequences within the non-gene parts of their DNA.

“I am particularly delighted that the award recognises our work extending over three decades into exploring human DNA diversity and the processes that generate this variation, and not just our accidental foray into forensic DNA,” Sir Alec said.

“It is also very satisfying to see the relatively new field of genome dynamics being given such wonderful recognition,” he said.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: “This award is in recognition of his career-long contribution to pioneering science, through his endeavour to unravel the complexity of human genetic variation, and for the immense impact his work has had on our lives through applications in forensics and medicine.”