Nirenberg, Marshall Warren (1927–2010)
US biochemist who found the key to the amino acid genetic
code by deciphering different combinations of three nucleotide bases
(called codons) within long nucleotide chains
in DNA and RNA.
Each combination is coded to convert a different amino acid to protein,
a key process in transferring inherited characteristics. Nirenberg found
he could decipher the unknown configurations by synthesizing a nucleic acid
with a known base combination, and then recording the amino acid that it
changed to protein. He was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine, together with Robert Holley and
Har Khorana, for his part in discovering
how genes determine cell function.