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Alec Jeffreys - DNA Man!
By John Florance, BBC Leicester
If ever someone deserved the title "legend" it is Prof. Sir Alec Jeffreys. Listen to an exclusive interview with BBC Radio Leiceter's John Florance as he discusses DNA fingerprinting and how it transformed forensic science.
I'd not met Sir Alec before visiting him in his laboratory at the University of Leicester to record the interview.
He is one of the world's most famous scientists and yet he remains, quite clearly, an ordinary sort of bloke who still rolls his own and is happy to be working in a field he loves.
Listen: Interview with Sir Alec Jeffreys
Listen to John Florance's exclusive interview with Sir Alec Jeffreys...
He has great warmth and charm and spending an hour in his company was an honour and a pleasure.
DNA fingerprinting, which Sir Alec developed, has become an indispensable part of forensic science. It has helped prove guilt and innocence in criminal cases, resolved immigration disputes and clarified paternity.
Of course he is pleased that his invention can prove wrong-doers guilty but he is equally pleased that it can prove innocence and he instanced the number of American prisoners who had been released after DNA testing.
And although he clearly sees the technique as a force for good he also expresses concern that the government is building up records on huge numbers of innocent citizens by stealth.
He loves science and his account of the discovery of DNA fingerprinting was riveting. It was a real "Eureka!" moment.
Human DNA molecule. Every one unique.
I put it to Sir Alec that he could have a job anywhere in the world given his fame in academic and scientific circles. But he said he was very happy to continue working at the University of Leicester.
He liked his modest laboratory, liked living in Leicestershire and was greatly honoured to be a freeman of the City. Why should he move away?
In a world where I imagine competition and ambition are rife this really is a refreshing attitude.
Sit Alec isn't just a Leicestershire legend. He is a national treasure.
last updated: 07/11/07