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George Beadle

George BeadleAKA George Wells Beadle

Born: 22-Oct-1903
Birthplace: Wahoo, NE
Died: 9-Jun-1989
Location of death: Pomona, CA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: One gene, one enzyme theory

American geneticist George Beadle was raised on a farm, and fully intended to become a farmer himself, even attending the College of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska. At the urging of a professor at UN, though, he switched majors and embarked on a thoroughly different career, collaborating with Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock at Cornell and later studying under another Nobel winner, Thomas H. Morgan at the California Institute of Technology. Working with Edward Tatum at Stanford, Beadle studied the bread mold Neurospora crassa, exposing it to x-rays, observing the mutations that resulted, and charting the reactions by which the mold synthesized needed chemicals. Beadle & Tatum's "one gene, one enzyme" concept -- the notion that a gene specifies a single enzyme, rather than multiple characteristics -- won them the Nobel Prize in 1958.

Friends called him "Beets", and no matter how far his academic life took him from the rural landscape of his youth, he always thought of himself as a country boy, and he always tended a garden -- both for vegetables and for his own small-scale experiments. His second wife, Muriel Beadle, was a successful writer of non-fiction, including the medical 'case history' A Nice Neat Operation, and the Hospital Where it Occurred. She was also co-author of her husband's best remembered book, The Language of Life. Their son, David, struggled with alcoholism for many years before becoming a familiar and beloved street performer and artist in the Old Town of Pasadena, CA.

Beadle & Tatum's elegantly simply theory of "one gene, one enzyme" has since been shown to have occasional exceptions. When they won Nobel honors in 1958, their prize was shared with geneticist Joshua Lederberg, whose subsequent work, building on Beadle and Tatum's findings, showed that certain viruses were capable of carrying a bacterial gene from one bacterium to another.

Father: Chauncey Elmer Beadle (farmer)
Mother: Hattie Hendee Albro Beadle (farmer, d. 1907)
Wife: Marion Hill Beadle (botanist)
Son: David Beadle (street musician, b. 1932, d. 2006)
Wife: Muriel Barnett Beadle (author, d. 1994)

    High School: Wahoo High School, Wahoo, NE (1922)
    University: BS Agronomy, University of Nebraska (1926)
    University: MS Biology, University of Nebraska (1927)
    Teacher: Mendelian Asynopsis, Cornell University (1926-27)
    University: PhD Genetics, Cornell University (1931)
    Scholar: Genetics, California Institute of Technology (1931-36)
    Scholar: Genetics, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris (1935)
    Teacher: Genetics, Harvard University (1936-37)
    Professor: Biology, Stanford University (1937-38)
    Professor: Biology, California Institute of Technology (1946-61)
    Administrator: President, University of Chicago (1961-68)

    Lasker Award 1950
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1958 (with Joshua Lederberg and Edward Tatum)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science President (1955-60)
    American Cancer Society

Author of books:
An Introduction to Genetics (1939, with A.H. Sturtevant)
Genetics and Modern Biology (1963)
The Language of Life: An Introduction to the Science of Genetics (1966, with Muriel M. Beadle)


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