[Preliminary notes for speech given at the Lasker Awards luncheon]
Marshall Nirenberg won the Lasker Award for medical research in 1968 for his contributions to deciphering the genetic code.
In these handwritten notes for his acceptance speech, Nirenberg asserts the new knowledge in molecular genetics "will
have a marked effect" on the "eternal questions of who we are and where we are going," but not immediately as
more basic information is needed. He predicts a new area of research in genetic research will emerge in the last part of
the twentieth century, including work on molecular evolution and genetic surgery.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (98,872 Bytes)
ca. 21 November 1968
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Reproduced with permission of Marshall W. Nirenberg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Translating the Code of Life and the Nobel Prize, 1962-1968
1. The field of molecular genetics has advanced with incredible rapidity during the last 10 to 15 years. You may wonder whether
the new knowledge will have any effect upon the eternal question of who we are and where we are going.
I think it will have a marked effect, but no immediately
2. Much more basic information must first be obtained.
The initial objective is to understand the chemistry of the normal cell. This leads naturally to an understanding of the
aberrant cell, and is obviously a great importance to medicine.
Once can predict that a new era of research will emerge
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3. during the next 25 years, -- that of molecular evolution in which the effects of synthetic genes upon the economy of the
cell will be explored.
We know that the machinery of the cell will accept and follow any instructions written is the appropriate molecular language.
The language has been deciphered
4. and it seems probable that most if not all forms of life on this planet use the same language with minor variations. Genetic
surgery is a reality, both microorganisms and with mammalian cells.