Hamilton Smith (1981) - Mechanisms of Gene Transfer in Bacteria

Hamilton Smith (1981)

Mechanisms of Gene Transfer in Bacteria

Hamilton Smith (1981)

Mechanisms of Gene Transfer in Bacteria

Comment

Hamilton Smith received his Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in December 1978. Unfortunately, the 1978 Lindau meeting had been dedicated to physiology or medicine, so the first possibility for Smith to participate as a Nobel Laureate and lecture at Lindau was three years later, in 1981. He grasped this possibility and presented a very clear lecture (with slides) on the mechanisms of gene transfer in bacteria. Compared with his Nobel Lecture in Stockholm 3 years earlier, which is a more technical account of the discovery and use of restriction enzymes, the Lindau lecture sounds like a very pedagogical overview in the frame of a university course on bacterial genetics. The young scientists and students in the audience certainly must have appreciated the level of the lecture. Hamilton Smith himself must also have appreciated the situation, because he returned to Lindau for all the remaining medicine meetings of the 20th Century and has continued his participation into the 21st, also for the interdisciplinary meetings! A factor, which probably is non-negligible in attracting Nobel Laureates to come to Lindau, is the presence of other Nobel Laureates. Werner Arber, who shared his medicine prize with Smith (and Daniel Nathans), participated together with Smith until 1990. Subsequently, he became involved in the organising body, the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and thus participated in all meetings, irrespective of their subject. So Smith could be sure that in Lindau, he could, at least meet Arber. Actually, if you listen to Smith’s lecture you may notice that he would like to discuss certain matters with another Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria, who only participated in one Lindau meeting (1981). Another Nobel Laureate probably listening to Smith’s lecture was Rosalyn Yalow, who received her Nobel Prize a year before Smith and who had the use of radioactive isotopes as tracers in common with him!

Anders Bárány

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