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Nathans, Daniel


NATHANS, DANIEL (1928–1999), U.S. Nobel laureate in medicine (1978). Nathans was born in Wilmington, Delaware, of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Latvia and graduated in chemistry from the University of Delaware (1950) and in medicine from Washington University, St Louis, in 1954. His career in medical research began at the Rockefeller Institute in 1959 with work on protein synthesis before he switched to animal viruses, specifically the dna virus sv40. During a 1969 sabbatical at the Weizmann Institute with Leo *Sachs and Ernest Winocour, Nathans realized the relevance of the newly discovered restriction enzymes to viral research. These enzymes cut dna at specific sites, providing dna fragments whose genetic function can be precisely mapped. Daniel's mapping of the sv40 gene pioneered the application of restriction enzyme techniques to genetics and was an essential step in the development of molecular cloning and recombinant technology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for this work, jointly with Werner Arber and Hamilton Smith. His later interest in the genetic regulation of cell growth led him to study the response of cellular genes to growth factors. He moved to Johns Hopkins University in 1962, where he served as chairman of the Department of Microbiology and university president and was revered for his teaching and organizational skills. His honors included election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Medal of Science.

[Michael Denman (2nd ed.)]

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