This Week in Science History: 25-10-10

By Peter Dearden 27/10/2010

This week in Science History

Megan Leask, PhD Student, Laboratory for Evolution and Development

Marian Koshland Born 25 Oct 1921; died 28 Oct 1997.

Koshland was an American immunologist who discovered that the differences in amino acid composition of antibodies explains the efficiency and effectiveness with which they combat a huge range of foreign invaders. In 1970 she became a professor of Microbiology and Immunology, after which she discovered the J chain (a B cell antibody subunit).  In 1991, with colleagues, she identified a specialized intracellular pathway that transports antibodies into blood circulation, allowing for the multiplication of B cells essential in fighting infection.

Sir Richard Doll Born 28 Oct 1912; died 24 Jul 2005.

British epidemiologist who was one of the first two researchers to link cigarette smoking to lung cancer, as published in the British Medical Journal in 1950. In the same journal, fifty years later, Doll published (22 Jun 2004) the first research that quantified the damage over the lifetime of a generation, based on a 50-year study of a group of almost 35,000 British doctors who smoked. The study found that almost half of persistent cigarette smokers were killed by their habit, and a quarter died before age 70. Persons who quit by age 30 had normal life expectancy. Even quitting at age 50 saved six more years of life over those who continued smoking. He studied other health effects, such as those caused by asbestos and electromagnetic fields.

Daniel Nathans – Born 30 Oct 1928; died 16 Nov 1999.

American microbiologist, corecipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1978 (with American Hamilton Othanel Smith and Swiss scientist Werner Arber). The winners were cited for their discovery and application of restriction enzymes, which provide the “chemical knives” to cut genes (DNA) into defined fragments. Restriction enzymes are used as a tool in genetics in conjunction with other tools to analyse the sequence, expression and function of genes.