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Oliver Smithies

Born: 23-Jun-1925
Birthplace: Halifax, Yorkshire, England
Died: 10-Jan-2017
Location of death: Chapel Hill, NC
Cause of death: Illness

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Knock-out mice

Seeking a new way to correct genetic defects that can cause disease, geneticist Oliver Smithies spent three years trying to introduce short snippets of manipulated deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into mammalian cells in the laboratory. His colleagues doubted that his work was feasible, and the graduate students who worked with him at the project's beginning faded away as failure recurred. Smithies was alone in 1985, in a pitch-black darkroom developing x-rays of microscopic images, when he saw that he had successfully inserted an additional gene exactly where and how he wanted it.

His "gene targeting" technique allowed individual genes to be altered at the cellular level. In combination with the work of Martin Evans, Smithies' work led to the breeding of so-called "knock-out mice", animals with controlled pathologies passed from generation to generation, allowing scientific studies of an individual gene's impact. Smithies won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007, an honor shared with Evans and Mario Capecchi, who had conducted similar research independently.

Father: William Smithies (insurance salesman)
Mother: Doris Sykes (teacher)
Wife: (div.)
Wife: Nobuyo Maeda (geneticist, until his death)

    High School: Heath Grammar School, Halifax, England (1942)
    University: BS Physiology, Oxford University (1946)
    University: MA Physiology, Oxford University (1951)
    University: PhD Biochemistry, Oxford University (1951)
    Scholar: University of Toronto (1953-60)
    Teacher: Genetics and Medical Genetics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1960-71)
    Professor: Genetics and Medical Genetics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1971-88)
    Professor: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1988-)

    Lasker Award 2001 (with Mario Capecchi and Martin Evans)
    Wolf Prize in Medicine 2003 (with Ralph L. Brinster and Mario Capecchi)
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 2007 (with Mario Capecchi and Martin Evans)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Chemical Society
    National Academy of Sciences 1971
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    Naturalized US Citizen

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