Marshall W. Nirenberg
Born: 10 April 1927, New York, NY, USA
Died: 15 January 2010, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
Prize motivation: "for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis"
Field: genetics, molecular biology
Prize share: 1/3
In the 1950s, it was established that genetic information is transferred from DNA to RNA, to protein. One sequence of three nucleotides in DNA corresponds to a certain amino acid within a protein. How could this genetic code be cracked? Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei produced a long RNA chain consisting of a single nucleotide. When this resulted in a long chain of a single amino acid, the first part of the genetic code "puzzle" fell into place. The remainder of the code was mapped out in the years that followed.