Photo of Norman Davidson

Norman Davidson

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his seminal contributions to understanding the informational properties of DNA and for developing new methods for its study.”

Norman Davidson’s groundbreaking work in molecular biology led to the earliest understanding of the overall structure of the human genome. He made important contributions to physical and inorganic chemistry, founded the field of nucleic acid molecular biology, and made contributions later in his career to molecular aspects of neuroscience.

Davidson was known among researchers for bridging the gap between the physical and biological sciences through innovative methods. He worked for most of his career as a professor and researcher at the California Institute of Technology, and was a founding member of the advisory council to the Human Genome Project.

He pioneered new methods in physical chemistry and electron microscopy, which proved useful for genetic mapping and exploring the information properties of DNA and RNA. Davidson’s team was the first to physically map a mutant genome using his methods. His research also established the principle of nucleic acid renaturation– essential for deciphering the structure and function of genes.

By Jen Santisi