The G-man's Bio...

MexicoDoug at MexicoDoug at
Fri Jan 25 06:51:30 EST 2002

Lepidopterist (all right, lawyer, engineer, activist, president, whatever...) 
Jeff Glassberg's bio certainly has become a topic for the list.  What the 

I add what I know and infer:

He once told me he also had (at least, I don't remember well) a Master's 
degree from Caltech. That isn't on Mike's list. Go Caltech!! Go Beavers!!!!  
Go Jeff!!

Jeff seems to me less the genious and more the incredibly driven and 
determined man tainted by unpleasant for profit stint.  I suspect he has had 
the rejection of butterfly net syndrome ever since renowned population 
biologist Eric Lander humbled the shoddy research his former employer 
Lifecodes, did in the 80's.  That might be when he decided to toss in the 
towel on the genetic engineering activities he studied and brush up on law.   
More on that later.  Lander's comment, published in top tier journal Nature 
ripping apart the procedures used by Jeff;'s genetics company, was: 

"Lifecodes process to get a DNA match was like catching a match with a 10 
foot wide butterfly net"

Gee that galatic public flaming would make me hate butterfly nets too!!!

You really have to understand that the company Jeff was in on was a startup 
in 1982 but had two quite sharp scientists, PNAS type guys, one of which Jeff 
contributed to a seminal paper with in 1987:

"Application of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymorphisms to the analysis of 
DNA recovered from sperm,"

by A. Giusti, M. Baird, S. Pasquale, I. Balazs, J. Glassberg, "Application of 
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymorphisms to the analysis of DNA recovered 
from sperm," J. Foren. Sci., 31:409-17, 1986. [Lifecodes Corp.; Rutgers 
Medical School,New Brunswick, N.J.] 

That paper turns out to be a heavily referenced paper and a smashing success. 
 Kind of a disgusting subject for our butterfly friend to have his hands in.  
But most of us are kind of quirky in our own ways.  That fact, along with 
with the shoddy science which put their company through something of a 
crisis, plus lawyers everywhere might have sent me into a law career, too.  
It really is very logical.  Jeff isn't a lawyer because he is felt he was 
born one, I suspect.  It probably just happened.

Jeff's company, Lifecodes was a pioneering company in DNA fingerprinting.  
Among it goals when Jeff was there was to build a genetic DNA database of 
everyone in the world ((Lifecodes)), kind of GATTACA style, if you saw that 
scifi horror film.  Though the real pioneer in the industry of criminal 
forensics was a British company that set up shop a few years earlier and 
began doing trials.  In 1984 Sir Alec Jeffreys developed the first DNA 
fingerprinting test. It involved detection of a multilocus RFLP pattern. He 
published his findings in Nature in 1985.  In 1986 In the first use of DNA to 
solve a crime, Jeffreys used DNA profiling to identify Colin Pitchfork as the 
murderer of two young girls in the English Midlands. That's Jeffreys, not 
Jeff!  Significantly, in the course of the investigation, DNA was first used 
to exonerate an innocent suspect.  

When they established an office in the US in 1987, Lifecodes was in the 
process of orienting itself towards the same goal and they became the two 
major private forces.  The FBI was still clueless on how to use the 
technology to "match" criminals, so these companies in the late 80's were 
riding high on the hog enriching themselves from criminal cases and then 
paternity as well.  Evidence in, rapist proven by private lab, lawyers pissed 
off because they lacked the training to refute the "evidence."

One thing was wrong with the story.  Mr. Castro the handyman came along in a 
1989 case, accused of stabbing an innocent baby and mother, business as usual 
by Lifecodes, but this time the lawyers for defense enlisted Lander from MIT 
as an expert.  It drew worldwide attention and a mini science conference.

Then the world crashed on Lifecodes when Lander exposed them:  The theory of 
DNA typing was agreed ok, the experimental methodology was available.  But 
the Lifecodes side later agreed: 

"Overall, the DNA data in this case are not scientifically reliable enough 
(to reach a reliable conclusion) . . . If this data were submitted to a peer 
review journal in support of a conclusion, it would not be accepted (Lewin 
1989).  And that other galactic scientific flame  was published in the top 
tier Journal "Science."

That's Lewin, Roger Lewin.  Not Lewinsky!  That was 10 years later.

Now given that Jeff's famous semen paper was published in 1986, and the tests 
on Mr. Castro were done in 1987, and Jeff's brilliant co-author, Baird, 
(second author on the semen paper and first on several others with Jeff 
collaborating on analytical methods) was director of forensics at the time 
and took the political fall, and it was Jeff's interest, one reasonably could 
suspect that Jeff had a direct roll in the unfortunate company scandal.

The mismanagement of the Castro case by Jeff's company was actually a very 
good thing for society, believe it or not, however painful it must have been 
for the company.  It caused the establishment of rigorous lab procedures, 
standards and FBI proficiency so the testing was no longer in commercial 
hands and the threat of commercial manipulation removed.  That took 4 years 
to sort out.  It would have taken longer.  So OJ and Clinton were dead in the 

The actual mismanagement by Lifecodes, scientists on both sides agreed to 
was, eh is "shoddy" the word?:

Discrepancies between forensic report and laboratory findings
Deficient laboratory records (notebooks, etc)
Inclusion of faulty data inadmissible as a matter of science and law.
Failure to include both controls and lost records of exactly who the controls 
were from, renders the experiment uninterpretable (note: one was from one of 
the male scientists of the Lab)
Faulty application of statistics and considering the dependence of DNA 
Contamination and degradation effects on evidence not taken to account
Hispanic specific difference not well considered
Contaminated probes used introducing error
Recognition of contaminated probes and continued use of them
Subjective fudging of the standard deviation
(inconsistent choices depending against scientific methodology) required to 
determination of DNA match of sample vs. datapool

To Lifecode's credit:  The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Dr. 
Eric S. Lander at the "Winding Your Way through DNA" symposium, which took 
place at the University of California San Francisco in 1992. Dr. Lander is a 
professor in the Department of Biology at MIT and the Director of the MIT 
Center for Genome Research.) 

"It was an interesting case, because it showed what scientists can do when 
they put their heads together. Halfway through this case, when all the 
evidence was being considered, all the scientists who had testified as 
witnesses for the prosecution, and all the scientists who had testified for 
the defense, met outside the courtroom without the lawyers present and talked 
about the evidence. And at the end of the day we agreed the evidence was 
terrible, and we went back to court with a joint statement for the witnesses 
on both sides, saying the evidence was no good. It was the first case in 
which DNA fingerprinting was actually thrown out because of the way it was 
practiced. It was also an example, I think, to the legal community, that 
scientists are not necessarily hired guns to say whatever you tell them to 

Interestingly enough, Lifecodes survived.  I surmise that Jeff got out and 
managed to get some good money somehow around this time, possibly later.  If 
I were him, butterflies would certainly be a better thing to do than all that 
scandal over bodily fluids, high powered lawyers, etc.

Regarding the patent, Jeff indeed does have one.  

It is:
US Patent 5,593,832 Jan 14, 1997 applied for Jan 23, 1995

"Method for forensic analysis," assigned to Lifecodes.

It looks like Jeff's (or his company's) perseverance, problems and 
disinterest made this the patent from hell: 
This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/931,482,
filed 19 Aug. 1992, now abandoned, which is a continuation of 
application Ser. No. 150,465, filed Feb. 2, 1988, now abandoned,
which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 582,334,
filed Feb. 22, 1984, now abandoned, which is a continuation-in-part
of application Ser. No. 468,113, filed Feb. 28, 1983, now abandoned.

Lifecodes has 11 other US patents, most earlier issued, though filing date 
makes its own statement. Jeff is not an inventor on any of the other 11.  

So next time you wonder why he has a special thought process...  Oh, funny 
how business goes.  Lifecodes had the scandal, survived, and then 
acquired-gobbled up-its competitor CellMark, the British company that was 
first and not the subject of the scandal.  Lifecodes certainly was a shrewdly 
run business.  That was after Jeff and the Forensics Diredtor Baird, I think 
also, left.  But finally, Lifecodes got gobbled up by a bigger fish last 
month, of all times.  It is now part of Orchid Inc.  They all have web pages. 
 The sharpest of all is still there since 1982 - Dr. Balazs.  He probably has 
some good stories to tell about our Jeff.  PS  Hope he keeps the shutter 
clicking and the guides coming!!!!!!!

Asunto:  Re: The G-man's Bio...
Fecha:  01/25/2002 2:47:14 AM Central Standard Time
From:   hankb at (Hank & Priscilla Brodkin)
Sender: owner-leps-l at
Reply-to:   hankb at
To: ento at

I understand he is also working on a book for northern Mexico
butterflies and is editor, though not author, of Dragonflies through
Binoculars, and a butterfly caterpillers of North America book that is
in work.
How many of us have done as much?  I think he may be entitled to his
opinion without everyone getting hysterical about it!  Hey we are all
going to do what we want to do anyway, right.  So again I say "Chill".

Mike Quinn wrote:
> Jeffrey Glassberg's Bio:
> BS in Civil Engineering
> PhD in Molecular Biology from Rice University
> Law Degree from Columbia University
> Holds the primary patent for DNA Finger Printing (invented to help solve a
> rape case)
> Founder and President of NABA, largest organization involved in the study,
> conservation and enjoyment of butterflies in North America
> Sole or primary author of the following Oxford University books:
> Butterflies Through Binoculars: A Field and Finding Guide to Butterflies in
> the Boston-New York-Washington Region
> Butterflies Through Binoculars: the East
> Butterflies Through Binoculars: the West
> Butterflies through Binoculars: A Field, Finding, and Gardening Guide to
> Butterflies in Florida
> Current Project: NABA Butterfly Park in the Rio Grande Valley
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> Mike Quinn
> New Braunfels, TX
> ento at
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>    For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit:

                 Hank & Priscilla Brodkin


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