Understanding Life in the Laboratory


Understanding Life in the Laboratory


Sidney Altman


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(Abstract taken from the 1990-1991 Distinguished Scientist Lecture Program).

Dr. Sidney Altman is Sterling Professor of Biology at Yale University and one of the 1989 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.

Professor Altman was born in Montreal, Quebec, and received a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960. He was a graduate student at Columbia University in 1960—61, and then at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he earned a Ph.D. in biophysics in 1967, working under the supervision of Leonard S. Lerman. Dr. Altman was

a research assistant in molecular biology at Vanderbilt University for a brief period before his appointment as a postdoctoral research feTlow at Harvard University from 1967 to 1969, where Ile received a Damon Runyon Memorial Fund Cancer Research Fellowship in molecular biology to work in the laboratory of Matthew S. Meselson. While in Cambridge, he also served as tutor of biology at Radcliffe College. Dr Altman then received an Anna Ful!er Fund for Cancer Research Fellowship to work as a visiting research fellow in the laboratory of Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, from 1969 to 1971. Dr. Altman then received an assistant professorship in biology at Yale University, where he was promoted to associate professor in 1975 and became a full professor in 1980. He served as Chairman of Biology (1983—1985l, and was the ninth Dean of Yale College lJ985—19891. While Dean of the College, Dr. Altman worked to broaden the role of science in the liberal arts curriculum.

In addition to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Professor Altman hąs received numer0us awards including the Rosenstiel Awąrd for Basic Biomedical Research in 1989, the Yale Science and Engineering Award in 1990, and the Distinguished Service Medal from the Teachers College of Columbia University in 1990. Dr. Altman was also elected to the National Academy of Sciences. in 1990.

(Abstract taken from the 1990-1991 DSLS Program.)

His work: Work by Sidney Altman in the late 1970s revealed the existence of complex molecules known as ribozymes, consisting of both RNA and protein, and demonstrated that the RNA portion acted as the enzyme or catalyst. The findings that RNA could act as an enzyme went against current scientific dogma and brought new perspectives on theories of the origin of life. For this work, he shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas Cech of the University of Colorado at Boulder


Biology, Chemistry

Creation Date

September 8, 1990

Understanding Life in the Laboratory