Stories from the Scientists
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Biographies

Francis  H. C. Crick

Francis H. C. Crick

When Francis Crick (1916 - 2004) was growing up in England, he received a children's encyclopedia from his parents, which exposed him to the world of science. His fascination with this world has continued throughout his life. He received his college degree in physics and was starting graduate school when the World War II began. During the war, Crick worked on weapons for the British Admiralty. He was in his late 20s by the time the war ended, but he decided to go back to school for a PhD. Around the same time, he read a book that inspired him to begin studying biology. He went to the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University to pursue this interest by studying proteins. In 1951, James Watson arrived at Cavendish, and the two began the collaboration that would lead to the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule. Before Crick received his PhD, he completed the work that would earn him a Nobel Prize. Since 1976, Crick has been at the Salk Institute in California, where he investigates topics such as the origin of life and consciousness.


James D. Watson

James D. Watson

As a boy, James Watson was already very interested in science, particularly in birds. Watson's interest in DNA grew out of a desire, first picked up as a senior in college, to learn about the gene. By the time he got into graduate school at Indiana University, he decided that if he was going to understand genes, he needed to understand the simplest form of life bacteria. He then headed off to Europe, as a postdoctoral fellow, to learn more about biochemistry and bacteriophages. In 1951, he wound up at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he met Francis Crick. In 1953, Watson and Crick sparked a revolution with their discovery of the helical structure of the DNA molecule. Watson was only 25 years old when their findings were published. And he was only 34 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Since 1968, Watson has served as director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a research institute for molecular biology.


Herbert W. Boyer

Herbert W. Boyer

When Herbert Boyer was 12 years old, he thought he wanted to be a professional football player. Then, when he got to high school, Boyer's football coach, who also was Boyer's science teacher, helped change Boyer's mind. Boyer discovered that he enjoyed doing experiments as much as he liked throwing passes. He went to St. Vincent's College to study biology and chemistry, and found out, his junior year, about a new field called bacterial genetics. He later received both his MS and PhD degrees in bacteriology. By 1966, Boyer had found his way to California, where he began work as an assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco. It was at UCSF that he began modifying DNA. In 1972, Boyer met Stanley Cohen, and together they pioneered the field of recombinant DNA. Their work led to the founding of biotechnology firms such as Genentech, which Boyer co-founded in 1976 with Robert Swanson. Boyer is now a professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF.


Stanley N. Cohen

Stanley N. Cohen

Stanley Cohen grew up in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, a little town about 30 miles from New York City. As a boy, he was interested in atomic physics, but a biology teacher in high school inspired his interest in genetics. He went on to study biology and then medicine. In 1968, Cohen went to Stanford University to work as both a researcher and a physician. It was there that he began to explore the field of bacterial plasmids. He wanted to understand how the genes on plasmids could make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. In 1972, Cohen's investigations, combined with those of Herbert Boyer, led to the development of methods to combine and transplant genes. This discovery signalled the birth of genetic engineering. Today, Cohen is a professor of genetics and medicine at Stanford, where he works on a variety of scientific problems including cell growth and development.



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Resource Book Index: Stories from the Scientists


Winding Your Way Through DNA Resource Book Index


Winding Your Way Through DNA Lectures Index


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