Robert Horvitz is employed by the IBM Chicago Transportation Office for the summertime. His duty is to wire panels for accounting machines.
Robert Horvitz attends Niles East High School. His introduction to biology is in the 9th grade. The class consists almost entirely of dissections of formaldehyde-preserved animal corpses. For a science project Horvitz uses the fruit fly to replicate Gregor Mendel's famed 3:1 and 9:3:3:1 inheritance ratios. He becomes the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, The Nilehilite. His parents think he would become an entrepreneurial businessman because of his variety of money-making plans.
Robert Horvitz enters the Harvard Department of Biology. The beginning is difficult because of his limited background in biochemistry and biology. Fellow graduate student P. Foster helps and encourages him to persevere in biology. In 1972 he earns his M.A. As a graduate student, Horvitz writes four papers involving T4-induced modifications of the E. coli RNA polymerase.
Robert Horvitz moves with his family to Skokie, where he attends eighth grade at East Prairie Grammar School.
Horvitz receives a fellowship from the Muscular Dystrophy Association of America and joins Sydney Brenner at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. Horvitz wants to analyse aspects of worm biology that might relate to human neuromuscular disorders. Here he begins his studies of the development and behaviour of the microscopic roundworm C. elegans until Boris Magasanik, Chair of the MIT Department of Biology, offers him a faculty position.
Robert Horvitz travels to Europe instead of attending to his professional training in Matt Mesel's laboratory. He has a wonderful time exploring new places, only his asthma ruins a bit his summer holiday.
Robert Horvitz teaches computer programming in the language Autocoder to business executives at the IBM Chicago Education Office in downtown Chicago.
Jim Watson suggests to Robert Horvitz three consecutive Cold Spring Harbor summer courses in neurobiology to prepare him for England. These courses are for him intense and stimulating.
Horvitz’s studies centre on C. elegans when he finds that ced-4 and ced-3 genes take part in the execution of cellular death. He discovers that every cell needs a functional ced-3 and ced-4 to undergo programmed cell death. He also shows that the ced-9 gene acts as an inhibitor to the two death genes. Horvitz also finds that humans have a counterpart ced-3 gene. Later will be demonstrated that the genes involved in controlling programmed cell death in C. elegans, have counterparts in humans.
Robert Horvitz becomes Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Since he has started his teaching career, he has grown a little and productive community of scientists, always inviting them to be as much independent but also as highly interactive between each other as possible.
Robert Horvitz enters MIT. He becomes Features and then Managing Editor of the MIT student newspaper, The Tech. He is active in student government and member of a variety of committees. He majors in mathematics, then he earns a second undergraduate degree in economics. His thesis "The Profit-Maximizing Utilization of Exhaustible Resources" is made under Bob Solow of the Economics Department. During the first term of his senior year he attends enthusiastically the introductory course in biology.
Robert Horvitz moves back to the MIT in Boston to become Assistant Professor of Biology (1974), Associate Professor (1981) and Professor of Biology (1986). In 1979 Ed Kravitz, from the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, invites Horvitz to a meeting about cell death. This meeting opens his eyes to the possibility that the studies of programmed cell death in C. elegans might prove relevant to a variety of human neurological disorders.
Robert Horvitz is born in Chicago. His mother, Mary Savit Horvitz, a school teacher, is born in Chicago too, his father, Oscar Horvitz, a GAO accountant, is born in Joliet. Both of his parents are children of Jews who left Eastern Europe around the turn of the century. He inherits the love for science from both his parents. His family changes several houses but it is to the one located in Rockwell St. that Horvitz feels more emotionally attached to. There he becomes good friends with Ira Zarov.
Robert Horvitz takes part in the Cold Spring Harbor Symposium to become exposed to the field of molecular biology in a professional way, at the suggestion of Jim Watson who has recently become Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. The meeting is focused on transcription, and is very exciting. After this meeting Horvitz enters the Watson-Gilbert-Weber laboratory at Harvard, a very stimulating and challenging experience.
Robert Horvitz works at the IBM Boston Programming Center helping to develop CPS (Conversational Programming System), an early timesharing system.
In 1974 Robert Horvitz earns his PhD. His experience in Watson-Gilbert-Weber laboratory leads him to study the bacterial virus T4 and mechanisms of controlling gene expression. After the Ph.D., Horvitz decides to fly to Europe to join Sydney Brenner, at that time involved in the study of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to pursue problems in neurobiology.
Robert Horvitz writes computer programs for an IBM 1440 computer as a summer job. In the spare time he creates a program that would randomize a virtual deck of cards and deal bridge hands. Cards are one of his passions at the time.
Robert Horvitz receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston "for their discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death".
Robert Horvitz attends the DeWitt Clinton Elementary School. His mother encourages his first experiences with experimental science. An example is his sixth grade science project, entitled Electricity Produces Light through Heat.