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Daniel Nathans

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Daniel Nathans: Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine Recipient-1978

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Daniel Nathans was an American Jewish recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1978, which he shared Werner Aber, Switzerland and Hamilton O. Smith for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics.

Nathans was born on October 30, 1928, in Wilmington, Delaware. He was the last one of the nine children that his parents had. Sarah (nee Levitan) and Samuel Nathans came to the United States at the beginning of the 1900s. They were part of the Jewish migration from Russia seeking freedom. They were married in Philadelphia in 1910.

He went through the Wilmington public education system. He attended the University of Delaware and received his B.S. in Chemistry, 1950. He received a scholarship, which enabled him to attend Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. He received an M.D. Degree in 1954. He became an Intern at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, in New York City, 1954-1955, and then a Resident, 1957-1959.

Nathans went as a Clinical Associate at the National Institute of Health, in Bethesda. During this time, he married Joanne Gomberg on March 4, 1955. They had three children: Eli, Jeremy and Ben.

He took a position as a guest investigator for Medical Research at the Rockefeller Institute, 1959-1962. He then went to John Hopkins University, School of Medicine, where re remained until he retired.

Daniel Nathans received many awards including:
• American Cancer Society Scholar, at Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, 1969
• National Academy of Sciences’ U.S. Steel Award in Molecular Biology, 1976
• Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1977
• Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1978

Daniel Nathans died on November 16, 1999.

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