Howard Martin Temin

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For the British doctor, see Howard Martin.
Howard Martin Temin
Born (1934-12-10)December 10, 1934
Died February 9, 1994(1994-02-09) (aged 59)
Nationality American
Fields Genetics
Institutions University of Wisconsin–Madison
Alma mater Swarthmore College, California Institute of Technology
Known for Reverse transcriptase
Notable awards NAS Award in Molecular Biology (1972)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1975)
Spouse Rayla Greenberg (m. 1962; 2 children)

Howard Martin Temin (December 10, 1934 – February 9, 1994) was a U.S. geneticist. Along with Renato Dulbecco and David Baltimore he discovered reverse transcriptase in the 1970s[1] at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for which he shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Scientific career[edit]

Temin's description of how tumor viruses act on the genetic material of the cell through reverse transcription was revolutionary. This upset the widely held belief at the time of a popularized version of the "Central Dogma" of molecular biology posited by Nobel laureate Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (along with James Watson and Rosalind Franklin). Crick had claimed only that sequence information cannot flow out of protein into DNA or RNA, but he was commonly interpreted as saying that information flows exclusively from DNA to RNA to protein. Temin showed that certain tumor viruses carried the enzymatic ability to reverse the flow of information from RNA back to DNA using reverse transcriptase. This phenomenon was also independently and simultaneously discovered by David Baltimore,[2] with whom Temin shared the Nobel Prize.[3] Both scientists completed their initial work with RNA-dependent DNA polymerase with the Rous sarcoma virus.

The discovery of reverse transcriptase is one of the most important of the modern era of medicine, as reverse transcriptase is the central enzyme in several widespread viral diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis B. Reverse transcriptase is also an important component of several important techniques in molecular biology, such as the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, and diagnostic medicine. In 1992 Temin received the National Medal of Science and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Temin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Annette (Lehman), an activist, and Henry Temin, an attorney.[5] A long-time advocate against smoking, Temin died at the age of 59 from lung cancer, although he himself was never a smoker. As a high school student he participated in the Jackson Laboratory's Summer Student Program. A bicycle/walking path on the campus of the UW–Madison is named in his honor. He received his bachelor's degree in Biology from Swarthmore College in 1955 and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1959.

Temin's wife Rayla was also a geneticist. Temin's brother Peter is the Elisha Gray II Professor of Economics at MIT, and was formerly the head of the Economics Department.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Temin HM, Mizutani S (June 1970). "RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of Rous sarcoma virus". Nature 226 (5252): 1211–3. doi:10.1038/2261211a0. PMID 4316301. 
  2. ^ Baltimore D (June 1970). "RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of RNA tumour viruses". Nature 226 (5252): 1209–11. doi:10.1038/2261209a0. PMID 4316300. 
  3. ^ Judson, Horace (2003-10-20). "No Nobel Prize for Whining". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  4. ^ Dulbecco R (December 1995). "Howard M. Temin (10 December 1934-9 February 1994)". Proc Am Philos Soc 139 (4): 453–62. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1995.0028. PMID 11615331. 
  5. ^

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