Main content

Alec Jeffreys

Kirsty Young's castaway is geneticist Alec Jeffreys.

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys - the scientist who discovered genetic fingerprinting. It is 25 years since his 'Eureka moment' - when, pulling an X-ray photograph of his assistant's genetic code out of the developing tray, he realised he could trace the links between her and her parents and that her own unique genetic profile had been revealed. Over the following years, he was the first person to settle immigration disputes, paternity issues and crimes based on DNA identification - he even found himself confirming the identity of the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who had fled Germany after the end of the Second World War.

As a boy he had always been fascinated by science - he'd made himself a miniature dissection kit so he could find out how a bumble-bee worked and later, spurred on by that success, he remembers bringing a dead cat home and dissecting it on the dining room table. He owes, he says, a debt of gratitude to his parents, who benignly tolerated him turning their family home into a science lab.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: The Opening of Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
Book: Complete books of Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
Luxury: World's Biggest Church Organ.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Fri 14 Dec 2007 09:00

Music Played

Add music you love and enjoy it with My Tracks
  • Castaway's Favourite

    • Johann Sebastian Bach

      Fugue in D minor

      Soloist: Helmut Walcha

      • J.S. Bach: Toccatas and Fugues.
      • Deutsche Grammophon.
  • The Beach Boys

    I Get Around

    • 25 Years of Rock and Roll: 1964.
    • Connoisseur Collection.
  • Tina Turner

    The Best

    • All the Best: Tina Turner.
    • Parlophone.
  • Darude

    Feel the Beat

    • Now 47.
    • NOW.
  • Charles Penrose

    The Laughing Policeman

    • Various Artist: Comic Cuts 1928-1936.
    • Sounds of Yesteryear.
  • Leonard Cohen

    Famous Blue Raincoat

    • The Essential Leonard Cohen.
    • Columbia.
  • The Killers

    All These Things That I've Done

    • All These Things that I’ve Done.
    • Lizard King.
  • Engelbert Humperdinck

    Release Me

    • Hits of 1967.
    • Premier.
  • Book Choice

    • Complete books of Flashman - George MacDonald Fraser

  • Luxury Choice

    • World’s Biggest Church Organ

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Kirsty Young
Interviewed Guest Alec Jeffreys

Broadcasts

Featured in...

The Desert Island Discs podcast

The Desert Island Discs podcast

Subscribe or download individual episodes.

Listen to over 2,000 programmes

Articles

Articles

Read the surprising things we've learned about some stand-out castaways.

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

Featuring David Beckham, the funniest and most moving moments, animations and quizzes.

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

Why does Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece appeal to so many castaways?

Podcast