Scientist Datebook: March 3
Biochemist Arthur Kornberg, Nobel laureate for DNA and RNA discoveries.
Arthur Kornberg specialized in molecular biology. His primary research interests were in biochemistry, especially enzyme chemistry, deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis (DNA replication) and studying the nucleic acids which control heredity in animals, plants, bacteria and viruses.
He was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1959 for “discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid together with Dr. Severo Ochoa of New York University.
His other awards include the Paul-Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the American Chemical Society in 1951, L.H.D. degree from Yeshiva University in 1962, and National Medal of Science in 1979. Continue reading
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The structure of the DNA is considered one of the most profound discovery of the 20th century. DNA is the material that stores genetic information in chromosomes. By the time Watson and Crick showed it was a “double helix,” geneticists knew that it stored all the information needed for an organism to build and operate.
DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of living organisms. The primary role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information.
In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson published the “double helix” structure of DNA, and 50 years later, the Human Genome project, launched under James Watson in 1990, deciphers the human genetic code. In 1953, Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for their determination of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Because the Nobel Prize can be awarded only to the living, Wilkins’s colleague Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958), who died of cancer at the age of 37, could not be honored. Continue reading
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Physicist Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery
Alessandro (Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio) Volta was an Italian physicist known for the invention of the battery. He was born on February 18, 1745, in Como, a town in present-day northern Italy near the Swiss border.
In 1774, he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. He improved and popularized the electrophorus, a device that produced static electricity. He is often credited with its invention although a machine operating on the same principle was described in 1762 by Johan Wilcke, a Swedish experimenter.
Volta studied the chemistry of gases between the years 1776-78. He discovered methane after reading a paper by Benjamin Franklin on “flammable air.” In November, 1776, he found methane at Lake Maggiore, and after two years isolated it. He devised experiments such as the ignition of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel. He also studied electrical capacitance, developing separate means to study both electrical potential (V) and charge (Q), and discovered that for a given object, they are proportional. This is what we now know as Volta’s Law of capacitance. For his work on this, the unit of electrical potential has been named “volt”, after Volta’s name. Continue reading
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Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
First woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. and first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was a pioneer in promoting women education in the U.S. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and colleagues founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in America to earn the M.D. degree when she graduated from New York’s Geneva Medical College in 1849. She supported medical education for women and helped careers of other women. Upon establishing the New York Infirmary in 1857, she offered a practical solution to one of the problems facing women who were rejected from internships elsewhere. She published several books on the issue of women in medicine, including Medicine as a Profession For Women in 1860 and Address on the Medical Education of Women in 1864.
Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England, on February 3, 1821, to Hannah Lane and Samuel Blackwell. For financial reasons and because her father supported abolition of slavery, the family moved to America when Elizabeth was 11 years old. Her father died in 1838. As adults, his children campaigned for women’s rights and supported the anti-slavery movement. Continue reading
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Emilio Gino Segrè (1 February 1905 – 22 April 1989) was an Italian physicist and Nobel laureate who discovered the elements technetium andastatine, and the antiproton, a sub-atomic antiparticle, for which he was co-awarded the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics with American Owen Chamberlain. An Antiproton is an antiparticle that has the same mass as a proton but opposite in electrical charge.
He was born in Tivoli, near Rome, and studied engineering at the University of Rome La Sapienza before taking up physics in 1927. Segrè was appointed assistant professor of physics at the University of Rome in 1932 and worked there until 1936. He was Director of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Palermo from 1936 to 1938.
After a visit to Ernest O. Lawrence’s Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, he was sent a molybdenum strip from the laboratory’s cyclotron deflector in 1937 which was emitting anomalous forms of radioactivity. Segrè was able to prove that some of the radiation was being produced by a previously unknown element, dubbed technetium, which was the first artificially synthesized chemical element which does not occur in nature. Continue reading