Cracking the code in the 1960s, Marshall Nirenberg
Interviewee: Marshall Nirenberg. Cracking the code in the 1960s. (DNAi Location: Timeline> 1960s > Nirenberg remembers...)
I was invited to give a talk at the Cosmos Club in Washington on deciphering the genetic code, this was after the code was deciphered, and I, the Cosmos Club is this, you know, scientific establishment in Washington. And so I gave the talk and there was a small dinner after the talk for twenty or thirty people. There were two people there who were Communist spies and I only learned this after, well after the fact a few years later, and you know, just think of yourself, this was the height of the Cold War and if you see a, the title of a talk, deciphering a code, a genetic code, and you know nothing about biology, it's like, you're really interested in it.
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Marshall Nirenberg (second left) explaining the genetic code to President Lyndon Johnson (second right)
Marshall Nirenberg at the NIH, 1999. He is holding one of the original charts with 'code-cracking' data.
Marshall Nirenberg, Har Gobind Khorana, and Robert Holley shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Nirenberg and Khorana cracked the genetic code. Holley sequenced and deduced the structure of the first tRNA molecule.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about the RNA code for phenylalanine.
Marshall Nirenberg at the White House explaining the genetic code to President Lyndon Johnson.
Paul Zamecnik first developed the cell-free extract system, which Marshall Nirenberg adapted to decipher the genetic code. Paul Zamecnik and Mahlon Hoagland also isolated activated tRNA, the "adaptor" that shuttled amino acids to ribsomes for incorporati
After the easy codons, exact triplets had to be made in order to finish deciphering the rest. Marshall Nirenberg and a group of scientists including Maxine Singer, Marianne Grunberg-Manago, Phil Leder were involved in this process. Har Gobind Khorana al
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.
Har Gobind Khorana, Marshall Nirenberg, and Robert Holley shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Nirenberg and Khorana cracked the genetic code. Holley sequenced and deduced the structure of the first tRNA molecule.