Exploring science, Marshall Nirenberg
Interviewee: Marshall Nirenberg. Early in his scientific career, Marshall Nirenberg had to decide what project to pursue. Marshall Nirenberg talks about his decision to become a "code-breaker." (DNAi Location: Code > Reading the code > Players > Marshall Nirenberg > Making the decision)
I wanted to work in a field that's a really important field, that I felt was really a superb field. I assessed my chances of success in the field as, as being very low, minimal, I thought it was extremely risky. One time I asked, I, in the evening I saw a young scientist who I thought was probably the best scientist at the NIH working in his lab, and I stopped in on the spur of the moment just to ask his assessment of, I told him what I planned to do, and asked for his reaction. And he just looked at me, he said Marshall, he said, it's suicidal, which confirmed my worst fears. But the, I don't know, the wish to, to explore, the wish to discover was stronger than the fear of failure, and so I thought if I'm not, if ever I'm going to do it, I'd better do it now.
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Marshall Nirenberg talks about the contributions of Maxine Singer, Marianne Grunberg-Monago and Phil Leder.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about the RNA code for phenylalanine.
Marshall Nirenberg at the NIH, 1999. He is holding one of the original charts with 'code-cracking' data.
George Gamow was a physicist who became interested in biology after reading Watson and Crick's 1953 paper on DNA structure. Marshall Nirenberg talks about Gamow's theories on the code.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about Gobind Khorana, who synthesized many of the triplets needed to finish the decoding process.
Having made phenylalanine using poly-U mRNA, Marshall Nirenberg still had to prove it. He talks about how he did this with help from a fellow scientist â Michael Siler.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about Cracking the code in the 1960s.
Marshall Nirenberg (second left) explaining the genetic code to President Lyndon Johnson (second right)
After decoding the "easy" codons, Marshall Nirenberg talks about his strategy for decoding the rest.
Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei used poly-U mRNA in a cell-free system to make a polyphenylalanine protein chain. This showed that UUU must be the code that specifies the amino acid phenylalanine.