About Us

About Us

The FDP Project at the Penn Center for Bioethics is part of a larger project, Ethical Issues in Criminal Forensic Genetics, which examines the potential benefits and problems associated with using genetics in law enforcement.


Fingerprints of Francis Galton. Galton became interested in using fingerprints for personal identification in the 1880s. He developed methods to statistically show that each print is unique, and his fingerprint classification system was adapted by police forces. Image from The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton, volume III.



Want to know more about the laws governing the use of genetic technologies in the criminal justice system?  See the Laws section under Resources.


These fuzzy portraits are composite photographs of criminals made by Francis Galton in the 1870s as he investigated the idea that facial features are correlated with behaviors. A crisp composite image, Galton hypothesized, would confirm that idea. The fuzziness of these photographs, on the other hand, suggested that criminals did not share a physical type. Image from The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton, volume II.



Do you do research on the forensic uses of genetic information? See our Participate section to find out how you can contribute to and benefit from this project.


To make fingerprints practical as an identification and investigory tool, investigators had to devise ways to show how fingerprints differed from person to person yet were stable over time. The tiny numbers on these fingerprints mark points of comparison; these prints are from the same person, at age 2 and at age 15. Image from Francis Galton, Finger Prints, 1892.

Forensic DNA Ethics News

Forensic DNA Ethics News

Interested in how cutting-edge genetic technologies that can predict a person’s appearance are used in law enforcement?  See our News section for a round-up of news stories about the intersection of advanced genetic techniques and law enforcement.


Francis Galton photographed as a criminal on his 1893 visit to the Criminal Identification Laboratory of Alphonse Bertillon.  Galton and Bertillon were pioneering researchers on personal identification markers and their use in criminal investigations. Image from The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton, volume II.

Contact Us

Contact Us

Are you interested in the use of forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP)? Contact us to share your knowledge of cases in which FDP has been used or research being conducted on FDP.


Paris police clerk Alphonse Bertillon created a system for identifying criminals based on physical characteristics in the 1880s. His method, which used eleven different measurements of such attributes as ear length, head circumference, and foot size, was quickly adopted by some police departments—and just as quickly superseded by an easier method, fingerprinting. Image from Alphonse Bertillon, Instructions for Taking Descriptions for the Identification of Criminals, 1889.

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How can you participate?

To help examine the potential benefits and problems associated with using genetic identification technologies in law enforcement, the Forensic DNA Ethics project is actively seeking the participation  ... 

Contribute Materials

If you know of a case in which forensic DNA phenotyping was used other than those included on our site, please tell us about it!


We have an active program of surveys designed to gather data on current practices in forensic science education and law enforcement.  Many of these surveys are by invitation only, although public ... 

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Cases OverviewCases Overview

It is not known how often law enforcement agencies have turned to FDP as part of an attempt to identify an unknown suspect or victim; some reports claim that the method has been used in several hundre ... 

Laws Overview

Is forensic DNA phenotyping regulated?
Few jurisdictions have regulations that specifically address the forensic use of DNA for phenotype prediction. The method is still too new and too infrequently  ... 

Research Overview

We are collecting references for papers, reports, conference presentations, or abstracts that report findings relevant to FDP. Our intent is to periodically publish an annotated bibliography that trac ...