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Edward Lawrie Tatum

Born 14 Dec 1909; died 5 Nov 1975 at age 65.American biochemist whose research helped create the field of molecular genetics. He helped demonstrate that genes determine the structure of particular enzymes or otherwise act by regulating specific chemical processes in living things. With George Beadle and Joshua Lederberg, he won the 1958 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. During WW II, his work was of use in maximizing penicillin production, and it has also made possible the introduction of new methods for assaying vitamins and amino acids in foods and tissues. In 1940, in collaboration with George Beadle, he had made his studies on the pink bread mold, Neurospora crassa. They irradiated spores of bread moulds, allowed them to germinate, and discovered three mutant strains that had lost the ability to synthesize specific vitamins, implying that in each case the necessary enzyme was missing or nonfunctional. The mutants differed from normal by only a single gene, which showed that specific genes determine the structure of particular enzymes or otherwise act by regulating specific chemical processes in living things. In 1945, he moved to Yale and he extended his techniques to yeast and bacteria. Tatum and Lederberg discovered genetic recombination in certain bacteria (1946).

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