Image of a cell

Arthur Kornberg

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For accomplishments providing the conceptual and experimental framework for much of our current understanding of the manner in which DNA, the genetic substance, is replicated.

Arthur Kornberg’s ground-breaking research into DNA helped scientists develop new drugs and techniques to fight diseases ranging from cancer to AIDS. Kornberg’s discovery of DNA polymerase enabled scientists to make copies of DNA, the molecule that carries each living organism’s genetic information.

For his work, Kornberg shared the Nobel Prize in 1959 with Severo Ochoa. Kornberg had worked with Ochoa at New York University, one of the many stops in Kornberg’s illustrious academic career.

Born in New York, Kornberg received a medical degree from the University of Rochester in 1941. He later became affiliated with the National Institutes of Health during World War II. Afterward he went on to lead the microbiology department at Washington University in St. Louis and organized the biochemistry department at Stanford University, serving as its chairman until 1969. He continued to teach and research at Stanford until his death in 2007.

Kornberg’s DNA research led to great advancements in gene splicing and genetic engineering, which paved the way for a generation of doctors and scientists to develop new disease-fighting drugs. Kornberg’s son, Roger, received a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2006.

By Bob Warren