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Richard J. Roberts

Richard J. RobertsAKA Richard John Roberts

Born: 6-Sep-1943
Birthplace: Derby, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Eukaryotic (split) genes

For his discovery of "split genes", molecular biologist Richard J. Roberts won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1993, sharing the honor with Phillip A. Sharp, who made much the same findings independently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Fresh from college and just two years post-doctoral work at Harvard, Roberts was invited by James Watson ("The Watson", as Roberts wrote in his biography) to join him at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where they worked together for more than two decades. Roberts, though, found Watson disinterested in the burgeoning use of computers in lab work, and he was unable to convince Watson to start a company selling restriction enzymes. In 1994, Roberts joined New England Biolabs, a tiny biotech company. Roberts is still Director of Research at NEB, which is now a leader in the life science industry.

Roberts' Nobel honors were considered somewhat controversial, for slighting his collaborators at Cold Harbor, Louise T. Chow and Tom Broker, who helped design and conduct the experiments that led to their breakthrough. Roberts responded to the dispute by explaining, "The Swedes spent 16 years deciding what to do. We can only assume they researched the issue carefully, and came to their own conclusions as to who did what".

In 1995, Roberts and Sharp shared a less envied distinction, when both scientists received letters from "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, threatening their lives if they did not stop their work.

Father: John Roberts (auto mechanic)
Mother: Edna Allsop Roberts
Wife: Jean Roberts
Daughter: Alison Roberts
Son: Andrew Roberts
Son: Christopher Roberts
Daughter: Amanda Roberts

    High School: Beechen Cliff School, Bath, England
    University: BS Chemistry, University of Sheffield (1965)
    University: PhD Organic Chemistry, University of Sheffield (1968)
    Scholar: Biochemistry, Harvard University (1969-72)
    Scholar: Biochemistry, Cambridge University (1970)
    Scholar: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1972-94)

    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1993 (with Phillip A. Sharp)

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