© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan
Thomas A. Steitz
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009
Born: 23 August 1940, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Died: 9 October 2018, Branford, CT, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Prize motivation: "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome."
Prize share: 1/3
Thomas Steitz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. He studied at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin and coninued at Harvard University where he earned his doctorate in 1966. The future Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb was his supervisor. Thomas Steitz did his postdoctoral research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge and thereafter became a professor at Yale University where he conducted his Nobel Prize awarded work. Thomas Steitz is married to molecular biologist Joan Steitz and they have one son together.
An organism's vital functions are managed by large, complex protein molecules produced in cells' ribosomes. There, genetic information from "messenger RNA" is translated into chains of amino acids that then build proteins. Using a method known as x-ray crystallography, Thomas Steitz and other researchers were able to collaborate to map the structure of ribosomes, made up of hundreds of thousands of atoms, in 2000. Among other applications, this has been important in the production of antibiotics.