Memoir

Daniel Nathans

Johns Hopkins University

October 30, 1928 - November 16, 1999


Election Year: 1979
Scientific Discipline: Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member

Daniel Nathans’s discovery of restriction enzymes revolutionized the field of genetics research. Restriction enzymes are proteins produced by bacteria that cut DNA at specific sequences. With the aid of Hamilton Othanel Smith and Werner Arber, Nathans created a method for using these enzymes to cut DNA, allowing him to study specific pieces, a discovery that led to the creation of synthetic hormones and provided important techniques used in mapping the human genome. Nathans and his colleagues won the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1978 "for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics."

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