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Autoradiograph of the first genetic fingerprint, Leicester, England, 1984

Autoradiograph of the first genetic fingerprint, Leicester, England, 1984

Credits: Science Museum

Apart from identical twins, everybody’s DNA has a characteristic pattern. Certain regions of DNA are particularly variable. This is an autoradiograph of the first DNA fingerprint, prepared by Alec Jeffreys on 19 September 1984. Sir Alec Jeffreys (b. 1950) is an English geneticist who discovered genetic fingerprinting almost by accident. It has now become an invaluable police tool, identifying criminals from blood, skin or saliva left at crime scenes. This example is an X-ray of the original, which is too fragile to display.

Object number:

1989-870 Pt1



Glossary: DNA

DNA stores the information, or blueprints, of every cell and is located in the genes. It is made up of two strands which form a double helix that is linked by hydrogen bonds. It was first described in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson.

Glossary: autoradiograph

A photograph of an object containing radioactive material. The image is created on a photo-sensitive plate by the radiation contained within the object.

Glossary: genetic fingerprinting

A technique which matches DNA sequences obtained from bodily fluids, in order to determine an individual's identity. Often used to determine possible genetic relations, or link a suspected criminal to a crime scene.