2017Marshall Warren Nirenberg ReportMarshall Warren Nirenberg was born in New York City on April 10th,1927.
His father was Harry Nirenberg, a shirtmaker, and his mother wasMinerva Nirenberg. When Marshall was still young, he contracted a diseasecalled rheumatic fever, which is a disease that starts from a poorly treatedinfection such as strep throat or scarlet fever. In order to cure this disease,his whole family moved to Orlando where it was warmer. His early interest inbird-watching led him to the science of biology.In 1948, he received a B.
Sc. degree, and in 1952 he received a M.Sc.
degree in Zoology, both from the University of Florida at Gainesville. Histhesis was about caddisflies. After that, he continued studying biochemistryat the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1957, he received a Ph.D. fromthe Department of Biological Chemistry.In 1959, Nirenberg started to study the steps that relate DNA, RNA andprotein. He worked with a scientist named Heinrich Matthaei.
Nirenberg andhis partner often asked questions like, “How does DNA organized protein?”and “What is RNA’s function?” They did not need to compete with otherresearchers because only their group was asking these questions. Nirenbergand his group deciphered the entire genetic code by matching amino acids toLu 2synthetic triplet nucleotides. Their research results showed that RNA isneeded for protein synthesis, and Nirenberg also discovered how to use RNAto read the genetic code. He literally jumped for joy when they made thediscovery. He found it inspiring that every single organism has the samegenetic language, and he believed that his research would cure diseases.However, he also felt that scientists should not take action too quickly toensure that the medicine they create does not have side effects.
Nirenbergand Matthaei published their discovery in the journal Proceedings of theNational Academy of Science in 1961.In 1960, Nirenberg accepted the position of research biochemist in theSection of Metabolic Enzymes at the National Institutes of Health. Later on,he became the leader of the Section of Biochemical Genetics at the NIH.Nirenberg and Matthaei won the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in1968. Nirenberg’s other important awards include the National Medal ofScience in 1964 and the National Medal of Honor in 1968.
Nirenberg’s first wife was Perola Zaltzman, who studied chemistry atthe University of Brazil and worked at the National Institutes of Health withher husband. She died in 2001. In 2005, Nirenberg married another womannamed Myrna Weissman, a professor who studies Epidemiology andPsychiatry at Columbia University. He also had grandchildren.
EverySaturday morning, he liked to watch Spongebob with his granddaughterKerry.ironic becauseh