Francois Jacob

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Jacob, François

(fräNswä` zhäkôb`), 1920–2013, French biologist and geneticist, educated at the Sorbonne. His medical studies were interrupted by World War II. He joined the Free French Forces and fought in Africa and during the liberation of Paris. In 1950 he joined the Pasteur Institute, becoming laboratory director in 1956 and head of the cell genetics department in 1960. In 1964 he became professor of cell genetics at the Collège de France. By studying the genetic basis of lysogeny (see bacteriophagebacteriophage
, virus that infects bacteria and sometimes destroys them by lysis, or dissolution of the cell. Bacteriophages, or phages, have a head composed of protein, an inner core of nucleic acid—either deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA)—and a
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), he and Elie Wollman discovered (1961) a new class of genetic elements, the episomes. Studies of the regulation of bacterial enzyme synthesis led Jacob and Jacques MonodMonod, Jacques
, 1910–76, French biologist, educated at the Univ. of Paris (D.Sc., 1941). He was a leader of the French resistance in World War II. He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with André Lwoff and François Jacob for discoveries
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 to propose a mechanism for the regulation of the expression of genesgene,
the structural unit of inheritance in living organisms. A gene is, in essence, a segment of DNA that has a particular purpose, i.e., that codes for (contains the chemical information necessary for the creation of) a specific enzyme or other protein.
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(1961) and the concepts of messenger RNA (see nucleic acidnucleic acid,
any of a group of organic substances found in the chromosomes of living cells and viruses that play a central role in the storage and replication of hereditary information and in the expression of this information through protein synthesis.
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) and the operon. He and Monod shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with André LwoffLwoff, André
, 1902–94, French microbiologist, b. Ainay-le-Château, Allier dept., central France, of Russian-Polish origin. He was educated in France and in 1925 began a long association with the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
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 for their work in genetics. Jacob also did work on mechanisms involved in the growth and spread of cancer. His writings include The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity (1970, tr. 1976).


See his autobiography (1987, tr. 1988 by F. Philip).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jacob, François


Born June 17, 1920, in Nancy. French biologist.

Jacob graduated from the medical department of the University of Paris. He became a doctor of medicine in 1947. From 1940 to 1944 he was a member of de Gaulle’s Free French forces; he was wounded and awarded the Order of Liberation. Jacob joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1950. In 1960 he became head of the department of microbial genetics and in 1965 professor of the subdepartment of cellular genetics at the College de France. His works on the genetics of bacterial cells and viruses deal with genetic exchange between bacteria and phage, the genetics of lysogeny, the concept of episomes (1958), hypotheses (with J. Monod) on the transfer of genetic information with the participation of messenger RNA and on the mechanism of genetic regulation of protein synthesis in bacteria (the concept of operon). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965 with A. Lwoff and J. Monod.


“Genetic Regulatory Mechanisms in the Synthesis of Proteins.” Journal of Molecular Biology, 1961, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 318–56. (With J. Monod.)
“Méchanismes biochimiques et génétiques de la régulation dans la cellule bactérienne.” Bulletin de la Société de Chimie Biologique,gique, 1964, vol. 46, no. 12, pp. 1499–1532. (With J. Monod.)
“Génétique de la cellule bactérienne.” In Les prix Nobel en 1965. Stockholm, 1966. Pages 212–32.
In Russian translation:
Pol i genetika bakterii. Moscow, 1962. (With E. Wolmann.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.