Sydney Brenner

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Brenner, Sydney,

1927–2019, British molecular biologist, Ph.D. Oxford, 1954. He was director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (1979–86), and director of the MRC Molecular Genetics Unit (1986–91) before founding (1996) the Molecular Sciences Institute, Berkeley, Calif. In 2000 he became a distinguished research professor at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif. For many years he also played a leading role in developing molecular biology research in Europe and Singapore. In 2002, with H. Robert HorvitzHorvitz, H. Robert
(Howard Robert Horivtz), 1947–, American geneticist, b. Chicago, Ill., Ph.D. Harvard, 1974. Horvitz has been a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1978.
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 and John E. SulstonSulston, Sir John Edward,
1942–2018, British molecular biologist, Ph.D. Cambridge, 1966. He was staff scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, from 1969 to 1992, when he became founding director (until 2000) of what is now the Wellcome
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, Brenner received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for discoveries relating to the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death. Brenner is credited with laying the foundation for the work by establishing the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for genetic studies. The .04-in.-long (1-mm) worm has a short life cycle, allowing researchers to learn substantial information about organ development and cell death in a relatively short period of time, and it is transparent, enabling cell division to be observed directly under a microscope. Brenner demonstrated that a chemical compound could induce gene mutations in the nematode and that different mutations could be tied to specific genes. Earlier, Brenner had shown that triplets of nucleotides were the basis of DNA coding and with Francis CrickCrick, Francis Harry Compton,
1916–2004, English scientist, grad. University College, London, and Caius College, Cambridge. Crick was trained as a physicist, and from 1940 to 1947 he served as a scientist in the admiralty, where he designed circuitry for naval mines.
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 and others had decoded how amino acids were produced from DNA; at the same time, he also participated in discovery of messenger RNA, the means by which the information in DNA is conveyed to the cell organelles that produce proteins.


See his autobiography (2001).

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Birthdays: Painter Craigie Aitchison, 74; composer Richard Blackford, 46; Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, 74; Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, 28; biologist Dr Sidney Brenner, 73; West Midlands Chief Constable Edward Crew, 54; actor Tim Flavin, 41; snooker player Stephen Hendry, 31.