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Friday, June 26, 2009

DNA on the Witness

Eric S. Lander, D. Phil.
Director, Center for Genome Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What I would like to talk about today is the use of DNA in identification. I think it does a marvelous job of illustrating the unexpected consequences of discoveries in basic science.

There is a tremendous diversity amongst human beings. What a marvelous range there exists of human diversity, in height, in weight, in skin color, in faces. It's what makes life wonderful, what makes the human species so wonderful. And it makes us wonder what underlies this tremendous diversity in physical appearance. We know, in fact, that in large measure, physical appearance is genetically determined. We know this by looking at identical twins. When you look at identical twins it's not hard to see striking similarity between them. You do indeed see difference, but the similarity is really much more striking. And this tells us that identical DNA tends to produce identical physical appearance.