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1927 Marshall Warren Nirenberg is
born April 10, in New York, NY, to Harry Edward and Minerva (nee
1939 The family moves to Orlando, Florida. Here Nirenberg
develops an interest in biology.
1948 Nirenberg graduates with a bachelor's degree
from the University of Florida, where he studied zoology and botany
and became a research assistant in the nutrition laboratory.
bread mold experiments lead them to the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis,
which states that one gene codes for one enzyme.
1952 Nirenberg earns a master of science in biology from
the University of Florida. His thesis dealt with classification
and ecology of the caddis fly.
General Eisenhower and Senator Richard Nixon are elected President
and Vice President on the Republican ticket
and Crick elucidate the structure of DNA
1956 The Volkin
and Astrachan papers are published.
1957 Nirenberg receives a PhD from the University of Michigan
for his work in biochemistry. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the
"uptake of hexose--a sugar molecule--by ascites tumor cells."
Research was performed in the laboratory of James
receives a two-year, post-doctoral fellowship from the American
Cancer Society, and so begins his career atNational
Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute
of Arthritis and Metabolic Disease (NIAMD), under DeWitt Stetten
Jr. (and William Jakoby).
1958 The PaJaMo experiment is published
Kornberg discovers DNA polymerase, the enzyme that adds
to the DNA template, in the replication of DNA.
Zamecnik and Marvin Lamborg work
out the bacterial system that Nirenberg and Matthaei will use to
crack the genetic code.
Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg share the Nobel Prize for Physiology
or Medicine for the artificial production of nucleic acids with
1960 J. Heinrich Matthaei and
Nirenberg begin their collaboration.
Zamecnik develops a cell-free extract from Escherichia
coli, a microorganism that acts as an easily studied model for processes
highly relevant to human studies.
1961 On March 22, Biochemical and Biophysical Research
Communications receives a paper written by Marshall Nirenberg and
Heinrich Matthaei. This article demonstrates that messenger
RNA (mRNA) is required for protein synthesis and, furthermore,
that synthetic mRNA can be used to decipher the genetic code.
1961 Nirenberg delivers a paper on his work at the Fifth
International Congress of Biochemistry in Moscow.
1961 Nirenberg marries Perola
Zaltzman who is also a biochemist at the National Institutes
Monod and Francois
Jacob publish proof that messenger RNA (mRNA) exists
as the unstable information-carrying intermediate between DNA and
Holley produces purified samples of transfer-RNA (tRNA),
the molecules that produce proteins from the codes preserved in
The Berlin Wall is built by Communists in East Germany to
divide East and West Berlin.
War between the US and the Soviet Union is averted by President
Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A year later, Kennedy
is assassinated in Dallas, TX.
1962 Nirenberg is appointed chief of the section of biochemical
genetics of the National Heart Institute at NIH.
1963 Nirenberg publishes "The
Genetic Code: II" in Scientific American.
Leder announce transfer RNA (tRNA) binding technique
for deciphering the genetic code at the Sixth
International Congress of Biochemistry in New York.
Yanofsky and Sydney
Brenner prove that the order of nucleotides in DNA is
"precisely collinear with the order of amino acids in proteins,
an important step in the elucidation of protein synthesis."
1965 Nirenberg is awarded the National Medal of Science
by President Lyndon Johnson.
1966 Nirenberg is appointed chief biochemist at the Genetics
Laboratory of the National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute of NIH.
1965 Robert Holley works out the complete structure of
a molecule of transfer RNA (tRNA), the molecule that builds protein
based on instructions from DNA.
US troops are sent to North Vietnam to fight against the Communist
The Cultural Revolution begins in Communist China.
1967 Nirenberg is elected to the National Academy of Sciences
1967 Nirenberg, Richard Marshall, and C. Thomas Caskey
show that identical forms of mRNA are used to produce the same amino
acids in bacteria, plants, and mammals, suggesting that the genetic
code is universal. All life forms use the same 20 amino acids, the
same four nucleotides, the same code, and the same protein synthesis.
1967 Charles Yanofsky and colleagues prove the assumption
that the sequence of codons
in agene determines the sequence
acids in a protein.
1967 Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick decode another genetic
codon on DNA that signals a "stop" message, nearly completing
the genetic code.
Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to sit
on the Supreme Court
1968 Nirenberg wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
along with Robert
Holley and Har
Gobind Khorana for their work in deciphering the genetic
code and its function in protein synthesis.
1968 Nirenberg and Har Gobind Khorana win the Albert Lasker
Award for Basic Medical Research for their contributions toward
deciphering the genetic code.
1968 David Zipser discovers the termination
codon of UGA.
Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated
President Nixon announces withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.
Five men are arrested for breaking into the DNC Headquarters
at the Watergate office complex in Washington DC.
1973 Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer show that DNA molecules
can be cut with restriction enzymes, joined together with other
enzymes and reproduced by inserting them into the bacteria Escherichia
coli; this is the beginning of genetic engineering.
1974 Genetic engineering is viewed with alarm
by the scientific community.
1974 President Nixon
resigns and is succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford.
The National Heart and Lung Institute of the NIH is officially named
the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Mideast peace talks are arranged by President Carter between
Egypt and Israel.
1992 Nirenberg signs the "Union of Concerned Scientists"
warning (World Scientists' Warning to Humanity), as do 1,500 fellow scientists from around the world.
1998 Nirenberg signs his name to The American Society for
Cell Biology's statement supporting a ban on human cloning.
1988 The US Patent and Trade Office issues patent No.
4,736,866 to Harvard Medical School for a mouse developed
Leder and Timothy Stewart by genetic engineering.It is
the first US patent issued for a vertebrate.
2000 A letter to President William Jefferson Clinton is
signed by 53 Nobel laureates, including Dr. Marshall Nirenberg.
The letter is an extraordinarily persuasive request suggesting that
the President "not deploy an anti-ballistic missile system,"
whose long-term effect could be the start of a protracted arms race
with China or Russia.
2000 Celera Genome and National Human Genome Research Initiative
(NHGRI) announce the preliminary completion of the human genome
map, the so-called book of life. This is the first complete mapping
of the 3.12 billion base pairs making up the human genetic code.
Photo credits as noted (hover mouse over specific
photo) - Harvard: courtesy of Harvard Medical School, LoC: Library
of Congress; NLM: Courtesy of National Library of Medicine; NIH: courtesy of the National Institutes of Health and Marshall Nirenberg.