Like many acclaimed scientists, Kornberg was keenly aware that scientific merit was not the sole basis for awards and other
honors. He made this clear when asked to recommend others for awards, as in this letter regarding Marshall Nirenberg, who
would win a Nobel Prize in 1968 for his work on the genetic code.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (66,168 Bytes)
1965-01-14 (January 14, 1965)
Fahrney, D. S.
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Arthur Kornberg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Awards and Prizes
"Creating Life in the Test Tube," 1959-1970
January 14, 1965
You are kind to ask me for advice on the candidacy of Marshall Nirenberg for an award recognizing his contributions to genetics.
There is no question that his demonstration that simple accessible polynucleotides can be used as models and substitutes for
genetic messengers is a major contribution. More recently, his continued investigations of his initial findings have been
done with better precision and continue to be highly significant in our understanding of how information is encoded in genes
and transcribed for protein synthesis.
It would be unfair to say, however, that his contribution is of such elegance and depth in biochemistry or in genetics as
disciplines to give him considerable stature in either field. While it may be beyond the scope of your quest for information
about Nirenberg, I cannot refrain from giving you my comparative evaluation of Charles Yanofsky, Professor of Biology here
at Stanford. His contributions to genetics are to my mind of considerably greater depth and importance than those of any
investigator during the past ten years, including Nirenberg's. It is Yanofsky who has demonstrated with a thoroughness
and elegance that is unmatched the colinearity of the genetic code and the primary structure of the protein molecule. From
my intimate association with many colleagues who work in this field, Yanofsky is clearly their choice for the scientist's
scientist. I appreciate that the newspaper coverage and the popular response to Yanofsky's work does not approach that
of Nirenberg's. This, I would suggest, is all the more reason that responsible juries making wards consider the relative
merit of Yanofsky's contributions.