US biochemist who discovered how deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is replicated in the cell and reproduced the reaction in the test tube. He was awarded the 1959 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Kornberg was born in New York and educated at the City College, New York, and the University of Rochester. He became a commissioned officer in the US Public Health Service (1941–42) and worked at the National Institutes of Health from 1942 to 1952, directing a programme of research on enzymes and intermediary metabolism (the chemical reactions maintaining the life of the cell). He helped to discover the mechanism of formation of the coenzymes flavine adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which have an important role as hydrogen carriers in cell respiration.
From 1953 to 1959 Kornberg was professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology of the Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, where he studied the mechanisms of manufacture of nucleotides and how they combine to build molecules of DNA and RNA. By adding labelled nucleotides to extracts from cultures of the bacterium Escherichia coli he found evidence of a polymerization reaction catalysed by an enzyme. He isolated and purified the enzyme (DNA polymerase) and was able to use it to produce short replicas of DNA molecules by adding it to nucleotides. The results were published in The Enzymatic Synthesis of DNA in 1961. Kornberg was head of the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University (1959–69), remaining there as a professor until 1988. He published an autobiography, For the Love of Enzymes, in 1989.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Science and Mathematics.