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Sydney Brenner

Born: 13-Jan-1927
Birthplace: Germiston, South Africa

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

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Genetic regulation of organ development

Sydney Brenner elucidated the complex symmetry and hundreds of submolecules that make up a virus. Later, exploring the genetics of C. elegans, a tiny worm, he showed that a specific set of genes trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death). For this work he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine, sharing the honor with H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston.

Later in his career, working with Francis Crick, Brenner discovered the "start" and "stop" signals in the genetic code, and laid out the modern theory of molecular biology -- that information flows from deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to ribonucleic acid (RNA) to protein, but never flows in the opposite direction. Their theory still seems to hold true, with the exception of 'rogue proteins' called prions, discovered by Stanley B. Prusiner.

Father: Morris Brenner (cobbler)
Mother: Lena Blacher Brenner
Wife: May Covitz Brenner (psychologist, b. 1921, m. 1952)
Son: Jonathan Brenner (United Nations official)
Son: Stefan Brenner (philosopher)
Daughter: Belinda Brenner (artist)
Daughter: Carla Brenner (physical therapist)

    High School: Germiston High School, Germiston, South Africa (1941)
    University: MS Cytogenetics, University of the Witwatersrand (1947)
    Medical School: BS Medicine and Surgery, University of the Witwatersrand (1951)
    University: PhD Physical Chemistry, Oxford University (1954)
    Scholar: Molecular Biology, Medical Research Council (1956-79)
    Administrator: Director of Molecular Biology, Medical Research Council (1979-86)
    Administrator: Director of Molecular Genetics, Medical Research Council (1986-91)
    Administrator: President, The Molecular Sciences Institute (1996-)
    Professor: Distinguished Research, Salk Institute for Biological Studies (2000-)

    Lasker Award 1971, 2000
    Royal Medal 1974
    Kyoto Prize 1990
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 2002 (with H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston)
    Dan David Prize 2002
    Royal Society
    Jewish Ancestry
    Latvian Ancestry Maternal
    Lithuanian Ancestry Paternal
    Polish Ancestry Paternal
    Russian Ancestry Maternal

Official Website:

Author of books:
Loose Ends from Current Biology (1997, columns)
Encylopedia of Genetics (2001, with Jeffrey H. Miller)
Sydney Brenner: A Life in Science (2001, as told to Lewis Wolpert)

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