Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine 1958 to 1959

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine from 1958 to 1959 including the scientists Beadle and Tatum, their works, and history.


1958 George W. Beadle (1903- ), American

Edward L. Tatum (1909-1975), American

Joshua Lederberg (1925- ), American

Work: Discovered that genes transmit hereditary traits

Nobel Laureates: Beadle left his native Wahoo, Neb., for the state university and later Cornell. Collaborating with Tatum at Stanford, he learned from bread mold that genes dictate cellular metabolism. In 1968 he quit the presidency of the University of Chicago to run the American Medical Association's Institute for Biomedical Research.

Born in Boulder, Colo., Tatum became a biochemist and taught a variety of sciences at Stanford, Yale, and Rockefeller University. After his work with Beadle, he joined Lederberg in investigations which disclosed that germs, too, have sex and that they exchange genetic information during the act. He died at his home in New York City.

Born in Montclair, N.J., and raised in New York City, Lederberg cut short his medical training at Columbia University to take the opportunity to work with Tatum at Yale, where he eventually picked up his M.D. Joining the University of Wisconsin faculty, he created in 1957 that school's department of medical genetics. In 1959 he became head of a similar unit at Stanford. In recent years, Lederberg has emerged as a major force in the search for life on other planets.

Noble Lore: Instead of splitting the prize money evenly, the Nobel judges awarded 50% to Lederberg and 25% each to Beadle and Tatum.

1959 Severo Ochoa (1905- ), American (b. Spain)

Arthur Kornberg (1918- ), American

Work: Synthesis of the genetic code-bearing compounds ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)

Nobel Laureates: Ochoa began his biochemical research fresh out of the University of Madrid Medical School in 1929. Eventually settling in the U.S., he was appointed director of the pharmacology department at New York University Medical School in 1946 and of the biochemistry department eight years later. After isolating an organic compound common to both plant photosynthesis and animal metabolism. Ochoa went on to synthesize RNA in 1955. With it he created a virus and thus presented humankind with the promise and danger of creating life in test tubes.

Brooklyn-born Kornberg finished high school at 15, college at 19, and medical school at 23. While with the U.S. Public Health Service and head of the microbiology department at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, he led a research team in the successful effort (1952-1957) to create artificial DNA, which measured up to the real thing in every way except that it was inert, biologically inactive. By 1967 he had developed Phi X174, an active DNA molecule.

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