Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys' breakthrough is 'second most important UK discovery'

Posted by mjs76 at Jun 16, 2010 12:10 PM |
Genetic fingerprinting voted second only to double helix.

The discovery of genetic fingerprinting – right here at the University of Leicester - has been named the second most important discovery in the history of UK scientific research. A poll of 432 academics for Universities Week ranked Sir Alec Jeffreys’ breakthrough as second only to Crick and Watson’s work on the structure of DNA.

It was back in 1984 that Alec Jeffreys made his discovery. In fact, in a rare example of a clearly identifiable ‘eureka moment’, it was at 9.05am on 10 September 1984.that he spotted the existence of hypervariable regions of DNA and realised that these would be unique to each person on Earth. In 1985, this research was applied to a murder investigation and brought the killer to justice. And over the ensuing quarter-century a whole new science of ‘genetic fingerprinting’ has developed and bred a whole raft of legal, ethical, scientific and criminological challenges.

And Sir Alec (as he now is) is still working here at Leicester in our Department of Genetics, conducting research and teaching students, launching the next generation of geneticists on their own careers.

The top ten UK discoveries list also includes programmable computers, the contraceptive pill, stem cells, the Gaia hypothesis, the internet and buckminsterfullerene.