DNA pioneer Jeffreys wins Royal Society award

The academic who developed genetic fingerprinting has won what is believed to be the world’s oldest scientific prize

August 6, 2014

Source: University of Leicester

The Royal Society has awarded the Copley Medal to Sir Alec Jeffreys, professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, for his work on DNA variation.

Previous winners of the medal, which the society first awarded in 1731, include Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Sir Alec discovered a way of showing the variations in different people’s DNA, a technique now known as genetic fingerprinting. It is widely used in forensic science.

Sir Alec said that he was “absolutely thrilled” to receive the Copley Medal.

“I am particularly delighted that the award recognises our work extending over three decades into exploring human DNA diversity and the processes that generate this variation, and not just our accidental foray into forensic DNA,” he added.

He continued: “It is also very satisfying to see the relatively new field of genome dynamics being given such wonderful recognition.”

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: “Since discovering genetic fingerprinting back in 1984, Sir Alec’s work has transformed our understanding of human genetics.”

He added: “This award is in recognition of his career-long contribution pioneering science, through his endeavour to unravel the complexity of human genetic variation, and for the immense impact his work has had on our lives through applications in forensics and medicine.”

The Royal Society has announced the winners of 19 awards, medals and prize lectures. The full list is as follows:

Royal Medals
Terence Tao, professor in the department of mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles, for his contributions to mathematics, including harmonic analysis, prime number theory, partial differential equations, combinatorics, computer science, statistics and representation theory.

Tony Hunter, director of the Salk Institute Cancer Centre, for his discovery of tyrosine phosphorylation by src protein kinase that revolutionised our understanding of cellular signal transduction.

Howard Morris, emeritus professor at Imperial College London, for his pioneering work in biomolecular mass spectrometry including strategy and instrument design and for outstanding entrepreneurship in biopharmaceutical characterisation.

Darwin Medal
John Sutherland, group leader at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, for his novel and convincing work on prebiotic chemistry, in particular his solution to the central problem of nucleoside synthesis.

Davy Medal
Clare Grey, principal investigator in the Grey Group at the University of Cambridge, for further pioneering applications of solid state nuclear magnetic resonance to materials of relevance to energy and the environment.

The Rumford Medal
Jeremy Baumberg, professor of nanophotonics at the University of Cambridge, for his outstanding creativity in nanophotonics, investigating many nanostructures, both artificial and natural to support novel plasmonic phenomena relevant to Raman spectroscopy, solar cell performance and meta-materials applications.

The Sylvester Medal
Ben Green, Waynflete professor of pure mathematics at the University of Oxford, for his result on primes in arithmetic progression, and his subsequent proofs of a number of theorems over the past five to 10 years.

Kavli Medal and Lecture
Matt King, visiting professor at Newcastle University, for his research in field glaciology leading to the first reconciled estimate of ice sheet contribution to sea level.

Kavli Education Prize
John Holman, emeritus professor at the University of York, in recognition of his significant impact on science education within the UK.

Royal Society Pfizer Prize
Faith Osier, research fellow at KEMRI Wellcome Trust, for her research on understanding the mechanisms of immunity to malaria infection in man.

Armourers and Brasiers Prize
Ivan Parkin, professor of chemistry at University College London, for the insight, synthesis, development and commercialisation of coatings. In particular inorganic-oxide self-cleaning coatings for windows and anti-microbial coatings to combat hospital acquired infections.

Rosalind Franklin Award
Rachel McKendry, professor of biomedical nanotechnology at University College London, for her scientific achievement, her suitability as a role model and her project proposal to promote women in STEM.

Milner Award
Bernhard Schölkopf, director of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, for being a pioneer in machine learning whose work defined the field of “kernel machines” which are widely used in all areas of science and industry.

Michael Faraday Prize
Andrea Sella, professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London, for his excellent work in science communication.

Croonian Lecture
Nicholas Davies, professor of behavioural ecology at the University of Cambridge, for his work on the co-evolved responses of brood parasitic cuckoos and their hosts, the process of co-evolution and adaptation and the extraordinary biology of these unusual birds.

Francis Crick Lecture (2014)
Rob Klose, principal investigator at the Klose Laboratory, University of Oxford, for his research to understand how chromatin-based and epigenetic processes contribute to gene regulation.

Leeuwenhoek Lecture (2014)
Professor Jeffery Errington FMedSci FRS, for his seminal discoveries in relation to the cell cycle and cell morphogenesis in bacteria which helped to found the field of bacterial cell biology.

Bakerian Lecture
John Ellis, professor of theoretical physics at King’s College London, for his groundbreaking contributions in the physics of the Higgs boson and his attempts at unifying the fundamental forces of nature through his work at the Large Hadron Collider.

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Reader's comments (1)

Given the pressing national economic and industrial competitive need, perhaps THES might also report comparable prestigious academic R&D awards in Engineering, Technology, Built Environment, Business, etc., as and when they arise, if any. Possibly extending the range of reporting to R&D undertaken with industrial collaborators and partners.

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