Forensic Genetics: Mathematics


DNA identification consists in using DNA polymorphisms in order to link DNA samples, such as a suspect to a crime stain. Probability, population genetic, and statistical issues that arise offer considerable scope for mathematical treatment.

Keywords: forensic mathematics; DNA identification; product rule; population structure; Bayes's theorem; likelihood ratio


Balding DJ and Nichols RA (1994) DNA profile match probability calculations: how to allow for population stratification, relatedness, database selection and single bands. Forensic Science International 64: 125–140.

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Brenner CH and Morris J (1990) Paternity index calculations in single locus hypervariable DNA probes: validation and other studies. Data Acquisition and Statistical Analysis for DNA Typing Laboratories, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Human Identification 1989, pp. 21–54. Madison, WI: Promega Corporation. (Also available online (see Web Links).)

Brenner CH and Weir BS (2003) Issues and strategies in the identification of World Trade Center victims. Theoretical Population Biology (in press).

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Further Reading

Balding DJ (1999) When can a DNA profile be regarded as unique? Science and Justice 39(4): 257–260.

Balding DJ and Donnelly P (1995) Inference in forensic identification. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A 158(1): 21–53.

Brookfield JFY (1995) Statistical issues in DNA evidence. Electrophoresis 16: 1665–1669.

Crow JF (1989) Twenty‐five years ago in genetics: the infinite allele model. Genetics 121: 631–634.

Dawid AP and Mortera J (1996) Coherent analysis of forensic identification evidence. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society B 58(2): 425–443.

Evett IW, Foreman LA, Jackson G and Lambert JA (2000) DNA profiling: a discussion of issues relating to the reporting of very small match probabilities. Criminal Law Review May: 341–355.

Gale JS (1990) Theoretical Population Genetics. London, UK: Unwin Hyman.

Lewontin RC and Hartl DL (1991) Population genetics in forensic DNA typing. Science 254: 1745–1750.

Morton NE (1995) Alternative approaches to population structure. Genetica 96: 139–144.

Palmirotta R, Verginelli R, Cama A, et al. (1998) Origin and gender determination of dried blood on a statue of the Virgin Mary. Journal of Forensic Science 42(2): 431–434.

Weir BS (1992) Population genetics in the forensic DNA debate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 89: 11654–11659.

Weir BS and Cockerham CC (1984) Estimating F‐statistics for the analysis of population structure. Evolution 38(6): 1358–1370.

Web Links

Paternity index calculations in single locus hypervariable DNA probes: validation and other studies by Charles Brenner and Jeffrey W Morris http://dna‐

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Brenner, Charles H(Jul 2006) Forensic Genetics: Mathematics. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0005451]