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Hamilton O. Smith

Hamilton O. SmithAKA Hamilton Othanel Smith

Born: 23-Aug-1931
Birthplace: New York City

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Restriction enzymes (DNA cleavage)

Military service: US Navy (1957-59)

Trained as a physician, Hamilton O. Smith studied molecular biology and genetics in his spare time, and was 31 before taking his first research post, at the University of Michigan. He won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1978, shared with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans, for their discovery of a new class of 'restriction enzymes' which recognize specific characteristics of nucleotides in a molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and cleave there, dividing the molecule at that point. This has allowed researchers to elucidate the structure and coding of DNA molecules, constructing basic genetic maps of numerous organisms, and offers the potential to correct genetic illnesses.

Smith is a co-founder of Celera Genomics, and in 1995 he led the team that accomplished the first sequencing of a bacterial genome, at the Institute for Genomic Research, where he serves as a trustee. Since 2002 he has been at the forefront of a project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, that seeks to create a genetically-engineered single-cell organism with the fewest genes necessary to sustain life, capable of feeding and reproducing itself.

Father: Bunnie Othanel Smith (university professor, d. 3-Aug-1989)
Mother: Tommie Naomi Harkey (schoolteacher)
Brother: Norman
Wife: Elizabeth Anne Bolton (m. 1956, four sons, one daughter)

    High School: University Laboratory High School, Urbana, IL (1948)
    University: University of Illinois (1948-50, transferred to UC Berkeley)
    University: MS Biology, UC Berkeley (1952)
    Medical School: MD, Johns Hopkins University (1956)
    Scholar: Washington University in St. Louis (1956-58)
    Scholar: Human Genetics, University of Michigan (1962-67)
    Teacher: Microbiology, Johns Hopkins University (1967-73)
    Professor: Microbiology, Johns Hopkins University (1973-81)
    Scholar: Microbiology, University of Zurich (1975-76)
    Professor: Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University (1981-)

    Guggenheim Fellowship 1975-76
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1978 (with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans)
    Member of the Board of Applera (Celera Genomics, 1998-)


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