Harrison Echols

University of California, Berkeley

May 1, 1933 - April 11, 1993


Election Year: 1991
Scientific Discipline: Genetics
Membership Type: Member

Harrison Echols explored viral infections, their effects on cellular functions, and their DNA composition.  His studies identified the genetic make-up and functions of bacteriophage lambda, a virus that infected the E. coli bacterium; particularly its DNA transcription, mutation, replication, and recombination.  By observing the bacteriophage, or a virus that replicates within bacteria, Echols determined how they produce proteins and how they duplicate their chromosomes.  He found that the viral lambda chromosome recombines into, and out of, the bacterial chromosome to allow the virus to propagate along with the host.  These studies have vastly expanded the understanding of how genes are controlled at a molecular level, as well as how viruses combine with host cells.

Echols attended the University of Virginia, where he received his B.A. in physics in 1955.  He then went to the University of Wisconsin for his M.A. in physics in 1957 and his Ph.D. in the same subject in 1959.  From 1960 to 1969, Echols taught biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin. He transferred to the University of California in Berkeley, CA in 1970.  In 1978, he became the chairman of the Department of Molecular Biology as well as the director of the Virus Laboratory at the university.

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