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Marshall Nirenberg, Forgotten Father of the Genetic Code, Dies

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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You can say "Watson and Crick" in one breath, but should you try squeezing in "Nirenberg"? Along with Robert W. Holley and Har Gobind Khoran, Marshall Nirenberg won the Nobel Prize in 1968 for deciphering the genetic code—a discovery that never did for Nirenberg what the double-helix did for James Watson and Francis Crick, although it probably should have.

Because maybe then, people would not misattribute the work. In 2006 Nirenberg chanced on a just published biography of a prominent molecular biologist entitled Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code . “That’s awful!” he recounted his thoughts in a 2007 interview with Ed Regis in Scientific American. “It’s wrong—it’s really and truly wrong!”

The genetic code refers to the sequence of nucleotides (such as adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine, or A,T,G and C) that serve as the instructions for making amino acids, the building blocks of life. It takes three nucleotides (a "codon") to make one amino acid—but which three, and for which amino acids? In 1961, Nirenberg experimented with RNA, where uracil stands in for thymine, and cracked the code for the amino acid phenylalanine: UUU became the first word in the chemical dictionary of life.

As Regis writes in his profile of Nirenberg:

 

By 1966, with the aid of key contributions from Holley and Khorana, Nirenberg had identified both the compositions and base sequences of all the genetic code’s 64 trinucleotides. For this achievement, he shared the Nobel Prize in 1968; however, he somehow became the Forgotten Father of the Genetic Code.

 

Why? “Personality, I guess,” Nirenberg says. “I’m shy, retiring. I like to work, and I’ve never gone out of my way to try to publicize myself. Crick told me I was stupid because I never was after the limelight.” In addition, Watson and Crick’s discovery yielded a simple, visually stunning image: a gleaming molecular spiral staircase. The genetic code, in contrast, was a mazeworks of forbidding chemical names, codons and complex molecular functions—a publicist’s nightmare.

Nirenberg, who died of cancer last week in New York City, did not publicly complain about the lack of fame for his genetic work, as he found himself drawn to other avenues of research and published dozens of papers in neurobiology after cracking the code.

You can read more about him in The Forgotten Code Cracker , which appeared in the November 2007 Scientific American.

 

Photo of Nirenberg c. 1962 by the National Institutes of Health, Wikipedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 





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  1. 1. Iahmad 12:28 am 01/23/2010

    But that is what corporate media is west is all about. It can make a hero of stupid and a stupid of hero. Western corporate media can implant and produce evidence of something which does not exist to completely wipe out truth for the sake of its masters.
    The story is no surprise at all. It happens all the time.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Sankara Velayudhan Nandakumar 1:09 am 01/23/2010

    New helium laser crystal lased digital codes to be formulated to be formulated for genetic corrections based on the palm print after immediately the formation of brain,furthe for stem cell injections .

    Link to this
  3. 3. Sankara Velayudhan Nandakumar 1:11 am 01/23/2010

    The digital coded helium laser pulses must be coded after evaluating the palm print especially the brain line for islanded formation under saturn mount as well as a branch to lower Mars mount etc.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Sankara Velayudhan Nandakumar 1:19 am 01/23/2010

    As is now reported in Science, a team of scientists from the Netherlands (FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics) and Germany (Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching and the Universities of Bielefeld and Hamburg) has demonstrated that the detailed shape of the electric field inside a short light pulse can be used to control the motion of electrons involved in chemical bonding and to change the outcome of a simple chemical reaction. This result – obtained on the dissociation of D2 molecules – may open a new way of steering intra-molecular electron transfer processes like those in DNA base-pairs.
    This must have the bearing with planetary emissions of photon spin with reference to position of the sun as solar magnetic field resonance and emissions for stimulating catastrophic genes.
    Control of the electron position in a D2+ molecule: under the influence of a precisely controlled force exerted by an ultrashort, intense phase-controlled laser (red line), the electron (blue cloud) oscillates between the two D+ ions (magenta curve). When the molecule falls apart the electron stays with one of the two D+ ions. The emission direction of the atom that the electron stays with can be chosen with the phase j of the laser. Image: Max Planck Institute for Quantum OpticsIn order to achieve control over single electrons in a bunch, ultrashort light pulses of a few femtoseconds duration are needed. to use light for controlling single, negatively charged elementary particles in a bunch of electrons. The scientists achieved a major milestone that they aimed for within the excellence cluster "Munich Center for Advanced Photonics. It is managed to control and monitor the outer electrons from the valence shell of the complex molecule carbon monoxide (CO) utilizing the electric field waveform of laser pulses. Carbon monoxide has 14 electrons. With increasing number of electrons in the molecule the control over single electrons becomes difficult as their states Control of the electron position in a D2+ molecule: under the influence of a precisely controlled force exerted by an ultrashort, intense phase-controlled laser (red line), the electron (blue cloud) oscillates between the two D+ ions (magenta curve). When the molecule falls apart the electron stays with one of the two D+ ions. The emission direction of the atom that the electron stays with can be chosen with the phase j of the laser. Image: Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics
    Lie energetically very close to each other. Electrons are extremely fast moving particles. Spatial sort light pulses of planetary boundaries stimulating along the plane of hologram DNA pairs with reference to GRP (genetic reference plane )that moves at the rate of 30degrees in every two hours plane as feedback system:
    As is now reported in Science, a team of scientists from the Netherlands (FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics) and Germany (Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching and the Universities of Bielefeld and Hamburg) has demonstrated that the detailed shape of the electric field inside a short light pulse can be used to control the motion of electrons involved in chemical bonding and to change the outcome of a simple chemical reaction. This result – obtained on the dissociation of D2 molecules – may open a new way of steering intra-molecular electron transfer processes like those in DNA base-pairs

    Link to this
  5. 5. tharriss 8:07 am 01/23/2010

    Um Lahmad I agree that the media is terrible, but be careful of your "Western" slurs…. I don’t think anyone talks much about that awesomely insightful/truthful eastern media!

    Link to this
  6. 6. EvolvingApe 6:28 pm 01/24/2010

    Iahmad, the irony that Scientific American is part of this "Western corporate media" obviously escapes you.

    While much of the mainstream media certainly exhibits pack mentality and can get things wrong sometimes, it still does a reasonably good job in most cases.

    But wacky conspiracy claims about something called "Western corporate media" are just…, well, wacky.

    Link to this

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