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Howard M. Temin

Howard M. TeminAKA Howard Martin Temin

Born: 10-Dec-1934
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Died: 9-Feb-1994
Location of death: Madison, WI
Cause of death: Cancer - Lung

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Tumor viruses and host genetics

In the early 1960s, American virologist Howard M. Temin theorized that the genetic information in ribonucleic acid (RNA) could copy itself into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which challenged the then-widely-held view that genetic information could only be passed in the other direction, from DNA to RNA. Even as he gathered further evidence, other scientists remained skeptical, but in 1970 Temin proved his own theory by showing that genetic data could flow "backwards" through a particular enzyme (called "reverse transcriptase"). At about the same time, a former colleague of Temin's, David Baltimore, obtained the same results in separate studies at the Salk Institute. Temin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1975, sharing the honor with Baltimore, and with their one-time teacher, Renato Dulbecco.

Temin's first scientific paper was published when he was eighteen years old. He performed the first of his studies that led to the Nobel Prize in a basement lab at the University of Wisconsin, which also housed the building's heating pipes and a sump pit. Even after moving to a newer, better-equipped laboratory, Temin stored his Nobel Prize in the bottom drawer of his file cabinet. From his own research and readings, he estimated that 80% of all cancers were caused by environmental pollutants, most prominently cigarette smoking. Though he never smoked, Temin died of lung cancer when he was 59 years old.

His brother, Peter Temin, was a widely-respected economist, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of The Fall of the Bell System. Another brother, Michael Temin, taught law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Father: Henry Temin (attorney)
Mother: Annette Lehman Temin (activist)
Brother: Michael Temin (attorney)
Brother: Peter Temin (economist, b. 1937)
Wife: Rayla Greenberg Temin (geneticist, m. 1962)
Daughter: Sarah Beth Temin (Director of Scientific Affairs at the Lung Cancer Alliance)
Daughter: Miriam Temin (AIDS worker, United Nations Children’s Fund)

    High School: Central High School, Philadelphia, PA (1950)
    Scholar: Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME (1949-52, 1955)
    Scholar: Biology, Fox Chase Cancer Center (1953)
    University: BS Biology, Swarthmore College (1955)
    University: PhD Animal virology, California Institute of Technology (1959)
    Scholar: Biology, California Institute of Technology (1959-60)
    Teacher: Oncology, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1960-66)
    Professor: Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1966-74)
    Professor: Viral Oncology and Cell Biology, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1974-94)

    Lasker Award 1974
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1975 (with David Baltimore and Renato Dulbecco)
    National Medal of Science 1992
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    National Academy of Sciences
    American Cancer Society
    National Cancer Institute 1964-74 (research grant)

Author of books:
The Biology of RNA-Tumor Viruses (1974)

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