Fun Fact on DNA

Jan. 27 2019

The First Use of DNA Profiling as Forensics Evidence in a Criminal Case

The principle of DNA profiling was accidentally discovered by geneticist Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester, approximately 10 km from Narborough Leicestershire, United Kingdom in the early 1980s.  At the time, Dr. Jeffreys was studying how inherited illnesses are passed down through families. After one of his experiments, he inadvertently left extracted DNA attached to photographic film in a developing tank. What he noticed was that DNA-specific profiles began developing and imprinting on the film. Dr. Jeffreys also discovered that the individual from whose blood the DNA was extracted could be identified with great precision based on this profile.

Originally used to establish matches in disputes over paternity, DNA profiling was first used in criminal and police forensics in 1986 to exonerate an innocent 17 year old boy who had wrongly confessed to a murder in the village of Narborough, and then later convict the real perpetrator in this case.  Soon after publishing a paper on the potential of DNA profiling, Dr. Jeffreys was approached by the local police department to assist with the Narborough murder investigation by providing DNA-based evidence.

A year later, the first DNA-based conviction occurred in the United States, when an Orange County, Florida Circuit Court accepted the results of DNA profiling as evidence in a trial. This marked the beginning of what is now widespread and frequent use of DNA profiling techniques by courts around the world.