© The Nobel Foundation
Marshall W. Nirenberg

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Marshall W. Nirenberg: Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine
by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Marshall W. Nirenberg is an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1968, which he shared with Robert W. Holley and Har Gebind Khorana (India) for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.

He was born on April 10, 1927, in New York City, to Minerva Bykowsky and Harry Nirenberg. The family moved to Florida to help Marshall with his Rheumatic fever. As he grew, he developed a curiosity and an interest in the subtropical climate and world around him.

Nirenberg graduated high school in 1945, and enrolled in the University of Florida, in Gainesville, where he earned A B.S. degree in Zoology and Chemistry, in 1948. He received his M.S. degree in Zoology, in 1952. His master’s thesis was on caddis flies.

He went to the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and received a Ph.D. degree in Biological Chemistry from the Department of Biological Chemistry, in 1957. His thesis was a study of a permease for hexose transport in ascites tumor cells.

1957-1959, he had postdoctoral training at National Institutes of Health as a Fellow of the American Cancer Society. In1959, he began to investigate the steps that relate to DNA, RNA and protein. In 1962, he became the head of the section of Biochemical Genetics at the National Institutes of Health.

In 1961, he was married to Perola Zaitzman, a chemist fro the University of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. She was a biochemist at the National Institutes of Health.

He received many awards:
• Award in the Biological Sciences, Washington Academy of Sciences, 1962
• Molecular Biology Award, National Academy of Sciences, 1963
• Medal, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1964
• Howe Award, American Chemical Society, 1964
• Paul-Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 1964
• John Young Award, Florida, 1965
• National Medal of Science, President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965
• Hildebrand Award, American Chemical Society, 1966
• Research Corporation Award, 1966
• American College of Physicians Award, 1967
• Gairdner Foundation Award, Canada, 1967
• Prix Charles Leopold Mayer, French Academy of Sciences, 1967
• Distinguished Service Medal, Department of Health Education and Welfare, 1968
• Franklin Medal, Franklin Institute, 1968
• Joseph Priestley Award, Dickinson College, 1968
• Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, 1968
• Louis Gross Horowitz Prize, Columbia University, 1968
• National Medal of Honor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968
• City of Peace Award, 1975
• George Costzias Memorial Award Lecture, American Society of Neurology, 1981
• A. Ross McIntyre Award, University of Nebraska, 1983
Nirenberg was a member of:
• American Academy of Arts and Sciences
• American Association for the Advancement of Science
• American Chemical Society
• American Institutes of Chemists
• American Neurochemistry Society
• American Neurological Society
• American Philosophical Society
• American Society of Biological Chemistry
• American Society of Biological Chemists
• Biophysical Society
• European Academy of Sciences and Arts
• Federation of American Scientists
• Harvey Society
• National Academy of Medicine
• National Academy of Sciences
• Pontifical Academy of Sciences
• Sigma XI
• Society for Developmental Biology
• Society for Neuroscience
• Washington Academy of Sciences

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