Martin Rodbell is born in Baltimore, to Milton Rodbell, the owner of a grocery store, and Shirley Abrams.

Martin Rodbell enters John Hopkins University with interests in biology and French existential literature. In 1944 he leaves college for war service, returning at John Hopkins University in the 1946. A small class given by James Ebert induces Rodbell to consider a career in the biological sciences. He receives his B.A. degree in biology in 1949.

Rodbell works as research biochemist at the National Heart Institute (now the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute), National Institutes of Health. He deepens the composition of lipid proteins and glucose in adipose tissue. In 1961, he transfers to the laboratories of the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases (now part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases). In 1975 he becomes Chief of the Laboratory of Nutrition and Endocrinology.

Martin Rodbell enters the University of Washington, where he receives his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1954. He conducts his doctoral thesis, under the direction of Donald Hanahan, on aspects of the metabolism of lecithin (a complex mixture of phospholipids) in the liver.

Martin Rodbell serves as a U.S. Navy radio operator during World War II. He spends most of this time in the South Pacific area. The war experience provides him with a healthy respect for the human condition.

Rodbell receives half of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with Alfred G. Gilman "for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells". It was commonly believed that only a hormone receptor and an interior cell enzyme were responsible for cellular communication. Rodbell showed that the G-protein acts as an intermediate signal transducer between the two. This discovery helped to study diseases as cholera, diabetes, alcoholism and cancer.

Martin Rodbell works during a sabbatical year at the University of Geneva. Here he carries out research on the effects of hormones on ion and amino acid translocations in fat cell ghosts (fat cells deprived of fat) with Torben Clausen.

Martin Rodbell joins Dr. Peter Gaillard, a pioneer in the techniques of cell culturing, at Leiden University. Here he acquires expert training in the use of cultured heart cells for discerning the uptake of tritium-labeled chylomicrons.

In the mid-60's Rodbell's interests shift to the effect of hormones on individual cells. In 1969, he sketches a system for describing the components of cellular communication that he calls "signal transduction." Thanks to this theory he discovers the importance and function of G-proteins in the early 1970s. G-proteins help cells in the body communicate with each other and are so named because they bind to nucleotides called guanosine diphosphate and guanosine triphosphate (GDP and GTP).

Martin Rodbell dies of multiple organ failure after an extended illness in Chapel Hill at 73.

Martin Rodbell accepts a postdoctoral position as a research associate in biochemistry under Dr. Herbert E. Carter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here he decides that he wants to continue his research on the biochemistry of lecithin in cell membranes.

Martin Rodbell becomes Scientific Director of the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Chapel Hill. In 1989 he becomes Chief of the Section on Signal Transduction. In 1994 he retires.

Martin Rodbell is granted a fellowship in Professor Jean Brachet's department at the Free University of Brussels where he learns many new techniques; especially useful is an ultrathin x-ray film process to record localization of tritium-labeled molecules in cells.

Martin Rodbell remains at Hopkins for another year after his B.A. to take postgraduate courses in chemistry.

Martin Rodbell works as Professor in the Laboratory of Biochemistry at the University of Geneva. Here he leads research on the structure/function of glucagon.

Martin Rodbell enters the Baltimore City College, a public high school in which are selected students from around the city. This school is particularly focused on languages (Latin, Greek, German, French), and the study of sciences is limited. Nevertheless Rodbell develops a great interest in chemistry thanks to two friends coming from his neighborhood.