Paul Berg

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Paul Berg
Paul Berg in 1980.jpg
Paul Berg in 1980
Born (1926-06-30) June 30, 1926 (age 87)
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality U.S.
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions Stanford University
Washington University in St. Louis
Alma mater Case Western Reserve University
Pennsylvania State University
Known for recombinant DNA
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1980)
National Medal of Science (1983)
Spouse Mildred Levy (m. 1947; 1 child)[1]

Paul Berg (born June 30, 1926) is an American biochemist and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, along with Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger. The award recognized their contributions to basic research involving nucleic acids. Berg received his undergraduate education at Penn State University, where he majored in biochemistry. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1952. Berg worked as a professor at Washington University School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine, in addition to serving as the director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Berg was presented with the National Medal of Science in 1983 and the National Library of Medicine Medal in 1986.

Early life and education[edit]

Berg was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Sarah (Brodsky), a homemaker, and Harry Berg, a clothing manufacturer.[2] Berg graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1943,[3] received his B.S. in biochemistry from Penn State University in 1948 and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1952. He is a member of the Beta Sigma Rho fraternity (now Beta Sigma Beta).

Research and academic career[edit]

Academic posts[edit]

After completing his graduate studies, Berg spent two years (1952–1954) as a postdoctoral fellow with the American Cancer Society, working at the Institute of Cytophysiology in Copenhagen, Denmark and the Washington University School of Medicine,and spent additional time in 1954 as a Scholar in Cancer Research with the Department of Microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine.[4] He worked with Arthur Kornberg, while at Washington University.[5] He was a professor at Washington University School of Medicine from 1955 until 1959. After 1959, Berg moved to Stanford University where he taught biochemistry from 1959 until 2000 and served as director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine from 1985 until 2000.[4]

Research interests[edit]

Berg's postgraduate studies involved the use of radioisotope tracers to study intermediary metabolism. This resulted in the understanding of how foodstuffs are converted to cellular materials, through the use of isotopic carbons or heavy nitrogen atoms. Paul Berg's doctorate paper is now known as the conversion of formic acid, formaldehyde and methanol to fully reduced states of methyl groups in methionine. He was also one of the first to demonstrate that folic acid and B12 cofactors had roles in the processes mentioned.

Berg is arguably most famous for his pioneering work involving recombinant DNA, the process of inserting DNA from another species into a molecule, leading to the development of modern genetic engineering. After developing the technique, Berg used it for his studies of viral chromosomes.[6]

Berg is currently a Professor Emeritus at Stanford.[4] As of 2000, he stopped doing active research, to focus on other interests, including involvement in public policy for biomedical issues involving recombinant DNA and embryonic stem cells and publishing a book about geneticist George Beadle.[7]

Berg is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [1]. He was also an organizer of the Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA in 1975. The previous year, Berg and other scientists had called for a voluntary moratorium on certain recombinant DNA research until they could evaluate the risks. That influential conference did evaluate the potential hazards and set guidelines for biotechnology research. It can be seen as an early application of the precautionary principle.

Awards and honors[edit]

Queen Beatrix meets Nobel laureates in 1983, Mildred Levy and Paul Berg are second couple from the left

Nobel Prize[edit]

Berg was awarded one-half of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with the other half being shared by Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger. Berg was recognized for "his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant DNA", while Sanger and Gilbert were honored for "their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids."[8]

Other awards and honors[edit]

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966.[9] In 1983, Ronald Reagan presented Berg with the National Medal of Science. In 2005 he was awarded the Biotechnology Heritage Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF).[10][11] In 2006 he received Wonderfest's Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elizabeth H. Oakes (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 1438118821. 
  2. ^ HowStuffWorks "Paul Berg". Science.howstuffworks.com (2008-10-21). Retrieved on 2014-04-03.
  3. ^ Hargittai, István. "The road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, science, and scientists", p. 121. Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-850912-X. Accessed September 20, 2009. "Arthur Kornberg (M59), Jerome Karle (C85), and Paul Berg (C80) all went to the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn."
  4. ^ a b c "Paul Berg – Curriculum Vitae". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  5. ^ "Paul Berg". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  6. ^ "Award Ceremony Speech". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  7. ^ "CAP – Paul Berg". Stanford University. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  8. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1980". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  9. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Past Winners of the Biotechnology Heritage Award". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Gussman, Neil (13 April 2005). "Paul Berg to Receive 2005 Biotechnology Heritage Award". PR NewsWire. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "Sagan Prize Recipients". wonderfest.org. 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Research resources[edit]