Click Here to view the
Fingerprint America DNA
DNA - A Historical
470 to 322 B.C.: In their writings, Greek philosophers
Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Plato describe their observation
that certain human traits appear to be dominant and passed
from parent to child.
1665: The groundwork for the development of Cell theory,
the basis for understanding DNA, is laid by scientist
Robert Hooke when he microscopically observes honeycomb-shaped
structures within a piece of cork. He calls these structures
1830’s: Another scientist,
Robert Brown, observes a small, dark sphere inside
plant cells. He begins to refer to these spheres the
nucleus. It was also during this period that another
pair of scientists, Theodor Schwann and Mathias Schleiden,
conduct studies which conclude that the nucleus plays
an important role in the growth and development of
1856-1863: Gregor Mendel, an Austrian
monk who is considered by many as the “father of genetics”,
conducts experiments using peapods to explain the patterns
of trait inheritance.
1869: Swiss scientist Johann Friedrich
Miescher notes the presence of a substance within the
nucleus of cells that has different properties from
the protein contained within the cells’ remaining areas. He refers to
this substance, which today is known as nucleic acid,
1912: Father & son physicists Sir
William Henry Bragg & Sir William Lawrence Bragg
discover that they can deduce the atomic structure of
crystals from their X-ray diffraction patterns. This
work earns them a Nobel Prize in Physics, but more importantly,
it represents the first step in enabling scientists to
determine the molecular structure of a compound.
1928: Franklin Griffith, a British medical officer, discovers
the existence of a process now referred to transformation – the
transfer of genetic information from heat-killed bacteria
cells to living cells. This discovery provides the first
indication that genetic material is a heat-stable chemical.
1944: The transforming agent observed
by Griffith in 1928 is identified as DNA. This discovery,
which was made by Oswald Avery, and his colleagues Maclyn
McCarty and Colin MacLeod, is at first dismissed by many
scientists who believe that DNA’s molecular structure
is far too simple to be genetic material.
of studies performed by biochemist Erwin Chargaff indicate
that the composition of DNA appears to be species-specific;
that is, that the amount of DNA and its nitrogenous bases
varies from one species to another. Chargaff also finds
that in the DNA of every species, the amount of adenine
equals the amount of thymine, and the amount of guanine
equals the amount of cytosine.
Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin, Francis H. C. Crick
of Britain and American James D. Watson discover the
chemical structure of DNA. This discovery leads to the
study of a new branch of science – molecular
1953: James Watson and Francis Crick
discover the molecular structure of DNA.
Crick, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins receive the
Nobel Prize for determining the molecular structure of
1977: Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism
(RFLP), a method for identifying individuals from their
DNA is discovered by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys of Leicester
University in England. Jeffreys refers to his discovery
as “DNA Fingerprinting”.
1986: American chemist
Kary Mullis develops a process for making copies of specific
DNA strands. He refers to this process as Polymerase Chain
Reaction (PCR). This discovery is important because it
allows DNA to be replicated accurately and efficiently.
1988: In the UK, police use DNA profiling
in the celebrated Pitchfork murder case to identify the
man ultimately found guilty of brutally raping and murdering
two young girls. In the same case, DNA profiling is also
used to a seventeen year old suspect.
1987: Also in the
UK, Robert Melias becomes the first person in history
to be convicted of a crime based on DNA evidence. Not
long after, Tommy Lee Andres of Florida becomes the first
person in the U.S. to be convicted based on DNA evidence.
1989: Gary Dotson becomes the first
person to have a conviction overturned on the basis of
DNA evidence. At the time his conviction was overturned,
Dotson had already served 8 years of a 25 - 50 year sentence
1989: Australia's has its first court
case involving DNA evidence. After Desmond Applebee is
convicted of three counts of sexual assault, he changes
his defense from "I wasn't there" to "the
woman consented" when
a blood sample matches him to DNA extracted from blood
and semen on the victim's clothes.
1989: In Melbourne,
Victoria Australia, George Kaufman confesses to raping
sixteen women over a four year period after he is confronted
with DNA evidence.
1989: Recognizing the far-reaching
implications of the continued use of DNA evidence, the
United States Federal Government and several States and
Canadian Territories begin to develop regulatory standards
for DNA collection and handling procedures.
1992: Recognizing the need to implement
standards of their own, the National Institute of Forensic
Science is established in Australia. The agency’s
primary roles are to sponsor and support research in
forensic science, Advise on and assist with the development
and co-ordination of forensic science services, gather
and exchange forensic information, support, co-ordinate
and conduct training programs in forensic science and
conduct relevant quality assurance programs.
amendments to the Police & Criminal
Evidence Act of 1984 by the Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act of 1984, The National DNA Database (NDNAD),
an intelligence database, it set up. These amendments
allow samples such as mouth scrapes and hair samples
to be obtained for DNA analysis under the same circumstances
which fingerprints are obtained. The information derived
from these samples can then be searched against records
held by or on behalf of the police.
DNA (mDNA – genetic material
important for cell metabolism) evidence is used for the
first time in a U.S. court. Paul Ware is convicted of
the rape and murder of a four year old girl after mitochondrial
DNA profiling matches him to a hair found on the body
of the child.
1998: The Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) sets up the National DNA Index System which enables
city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies
to electronically compare DNA profiles. In Australia,
forensic laboratories agree to a common national standard
for use in obtaining DNA profiles.
2000: In the UK, the
Forensic Science Service discloses that the number of
DNA profiles of suspects and convicted criminals on the
national DNA database has reached one million. This represents
approximately one third of the estimated criminally active
population. Additionally, the CrimTrac Agency, a national
law enforcement support initiative developed to give
police ready access to information needed to solve crimes,
is established in Australia. A central element to this
initiative is the development of a national DNA database.