Volume 9, Number 1, 1999

Nobel laureate Daniel Nathans 1928-1999

Nobel laureate Daniel Nathans, AS ’50, died Nov. 16 in Baltimore at the age of 71. Dr. Nathans, who was known as the father of modern biotechnology, received the 1978 Nobel Prize in medicine, along with two colleagues, for discovering the “biochemical scissors” that launched today’s amazing advances in biotechnology.

Dr. Nathans’ application of certain restriction enzymes to separate DNA into its component parts has resulted in such breakthroughs as synthetic insulin and growth hormone and permitted the mapping of the human genome.

The last of eight children of Samuel and Sarah Levitan Nathans of Wilmington, Del., Dr. Nathans graduated summa cum laude with distinction in chemistry from the University. He went on to study medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, completing his residency at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and then undertook further research in biochemistry at Rockefeller University.

Moving to Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Nathans taught in the department of microbiology for 37 years, served as department chairman and stepped in as interim president in 1994-95 when the university president unexpectedly resigned.

An inspiring mentor to his numerous graduate students, as well as a gifted researcher, Dr. Nathans also took to the task of presidential fundraiser. According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, during the year Dr. Nathans served as president, the “university and hospital received a record $125.9 million from private donors.”

Dr. Nathans is survived by his wife, Joanne, three sons and six grandchildren.