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School of Medicine
Welcome to the Daniel Nathans College!
Learn about the faculty leaders in Nathans College by reading their faculty biographies.
About The Namesake
Daniel Nathans was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 30, 1928. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Chemistry and then applied to medical school and received a scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis. After obtaining his M.D. degree in 1954, Nathans went to the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York for an internship in Internal Medicine. He spent two more years at Columbia as a medical resident, interrupted by service as a Clinical Associate at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. While at the NIH, Nathans developed an interest in the biosynthesis of proteins as a result of a study of myeloma protein formation in plasmacytoma cells. This led him to the Fritz Lipmann’s laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute in 1959. There he identified the bacterial “elongation factors” involved in the addition of amino acids to growing peptide chains, worked on the mechanism of action of puromycin as an inhibitor of this step (with Amos Neidle), and in a collaborative study with Norton Zinder, demonstrated that RNA from a bacterial virus directed the synthesis of viral coat protein by cell extracts. Following this experience, Dr. Nathans accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology.
In 1962, Dr. Nathans joined Hopkins as a faculty member, and founded the Division of Genetics, now known as the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. For the rest of his career, Dr. Nathans devoted his energies to science and teaching. He achieved many prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his work on restriction enzymes with his colleague, Hamilton Smith; the national Medal of Science in 1993; the title of Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. He also served as the president of the Johns Hopkins University from June 1995 to August 1996. Dr. Nathans passed away in 1999.