Walter Gilbert

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Walter Gilbert (born March 21, 1932) is an American physicist, biochemist, molecular biology pioneer, and Nobel laureate.



Gilbert was born in Boston, Massachusetts into a Jewish family and educated at the Sidwell Friends School, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge where he did his PhD thesis under another nobel laureate Abdus Salam. He later joined the faculty at Harvard. Together with Allan Maxam he developed a new DNA sequencing method[1]. His approach to the first synthesis of insulin lost out to Genentech's approach which used genes built up from the nucleotides rather than from natural sources.

In 1979, Gilbert was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University together with Frederick Sanger. In the following year, he was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Frederick Sanger and Paul Berg. Gilbert and Sanger were recognized for their pioneering work in devising methods for determining the sequence of nucleotides in a nucleic acid. Gilbert first proposed introns and exons and explained the evolution of introns in a seminal 1978 "News and Views" paper published in Nature. In 1986, Gilbert proposed the RNA world hypothesis for the origin of life,[2] based on a concept first proposed by Carl Woese in 1967. He is a co-founder of the biotech start-up companies Biogen and Myriad Genetics, and was the first chairman on their respective boards of directors. He is also a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute. Gilbert is currently the chairman of the Harvard Society of Fellows.

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