Frederick Sanger


Frederick Sanger
(1918)

English biochemist who was twice the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He was awarded the prize in 1958 for his determination of the structure of the insulin molecule. He shared the prize (with Paul Berg and Walter Gilbert of the United States) in 1980 for his determination of the sequence of the nucleotides in the DNA of a virus. Sanger was only the fourth person ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize twice.
Sanger was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he earned a doctorate in biochemistry in 1943. He worked continuously on biochemical research at Cambridge until 1951, when he began working under the auspices of the Medical Research Council. Sanger spent 10 years elucidating the structure of the bovine insulin molecule, and by 1955 he had determined the exact order of all that molecule's amino acids. His achievement, in which the structure of a relatively complex protein was completely established, was an essential preliminary to the laboratory synthesis of insulin. The laboratory techniques that he developed for determining the order in which amino acids are linked in proteins opened the way toward the determination of the structure of many other complex proteins.

Sanger subsequently turned his attention to determining the sequence of nitrogenous bases in molecules of DNA and RNA. By 1977 he had elucidated the sequences of nucleotides in the DNA molecule of a bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria). This phage, phi-X 174, was the first organism to have its entire nucleotide sequence determined. To achieve this feat, Sanger again developed new laboratory techniques, this time for splitting DNA into fragments whose base sequences can then be determined. He was named a Companion of Honour in 1981 and was made a member of the Order of Merit in 1986.


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