Philosophical Society of Washington

DNA Identification of the Last Romanovs

Thomas J. Parsons
Armed Forces Institution of Pathology

2049th Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 03, 1995 at 8:15 PM


DNA testing has played a principle role in solving one of the most dramatic and longstanding forensic mysteries of the century: the fate of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family. This work, performed at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) and elsewhere, will be described, with emphasis on the use of mitochondrial DNA analysis of ancient remains. In addition to the remarkable and intricate human-interest aspects of the Romanov case, the lecture will highlight recent advances in molecular biological technology and genetic characterization that are the basis for determining personal identity from a wide range of biological samples. Much genetic information can be recovered even after great periods of time—years, decades, centuries, and beyond. This type of testing is regularly performed at the AFDIL to aid in the identification of U.S. service personnel from both present and past (Viet Nam, Korea, World War II) eras.

About the Author:

Thomas J. Parsons received a Bachelors in physics from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Washington in 1989. Subsequently, he focussed on the study of molecular evolution and genetic variation in many species, including birds, insects, and humans. He performed extended postdoctoral study at the Smithsonian Institution's Laboratory of Molecular Systematics, and more recently was a research faculty member at the University of Nebraska. In his current position at the Armed Forces Identification Laboratory, Armed Forces Institution of Pathology, he specializes in human mitochondrial DNA variation and ancient DNA analysis.

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