Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Marshall W. Nirenberg
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1968
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."
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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.