Daniel Nathans American microbiologist who was co-recipient, with Hamilton Othanel Smith of the United States and Werner Arber of Switzerland, of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. The three scientists were cited for their discovery and application of restriction enzymes that break the giant molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into fragments, making possible the study of the genetic information they contain. The process constitutes one of the basic tools of genetic research.
Nathans was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the last of nine children born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Sarah (Levitan) and Samuel Nathans. During the Great Depression, his father lost his small business and was unemployed for a long time.
In 1962, Nathans came to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as an assistant professor of microbiology. He was promoted to associate professor in 1965 and to professor in 1967. He became the director of the microbiology department in 1972 and served in that position until 1982. In 1982 Johns Hopkins University made Nathans a University Professor, a position in which he served until his death in 1999.
Daniel Nathans portrayed on a 33¢ stamp issued by Palau in 2000 in a souvenir sheet commemorating Advances in Science and Medicine in the 20th century.
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