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Werner Arber

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Title: Werner Arber  
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Subject: List of Nobel laureates by university affiliation, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Daisy Roulland-Dussoix, Daniel Nathans, Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Collection: 1929 Births, Biozentrum University of Basel, Eth Zurich Alumni, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Living People, Members of the European Molecular Biology Organization, Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, People from Aarau District, Phage Workers, Recipients of the Great Cross of the National Order of Scientific Merit (Brazil), Swiss Biologists, Swiss Microbiologists, Swiss Nobel Laureates, Swiss Protestants, University of Geneva Alumni, University of Geneva Faculty, University of Southern California Faculty
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Werner Arber

Werner Arber
Werner Arber (2014)
Born (1929-06-03) 3 June 1929
Nationality Swiss
Fields Microbiology
Institutions University of Geneva, University of Basel, University of Southern California
Known for restriction endonucleases
Notable awards 1978, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Werner Arber (born 3 June 1929, Gränichen, Aargau) is a Swiss microbiologist and geneticist. Along with American researchers Hamilton Smith and Daniel Nathans, Werner Arber shared the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of restriction endonucleases. Their work would lead to the development of recombinant DNA technology.


  • Life and career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Arber studied chemistry and physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich from 1949 to 1953. Late in 1953 he took an assistantship for electron microscopy at the University of Geneva, in time left the electron microscope, went on to research bacteriophages and write his dissertation on defective lambda prophage mutants. In his Nobel Autobiography, he writes:

In the summer of 1956, we learned about experiments made by Larry Morse and Esther and Joshua Lederberg on the lambda-mediated transduction (gene transfer from one bacterial strain to another by a bacteriophage serving as vector) of bacterial determinants for galactose fermentation. Since these investigators had encountered defective lysogenic strains among their transductants, we felt that such strains should be included in the collection of lambda prophage mutants under study in our laboratory. Very rapidly, thanks to the stimulating help by Jean Weigle and Grete Kellenberger, this turned out to be extremely fruitful. [...] This was the end of my career as an electron microscopist and in chosing genetic and physiological approaches I became a molecular geneticist.

He received his doctorate in 1958 from the University of Geneva.

Arber then worked at the University of Southern California in phage genetics with Gio ("Joe") Bertani starting in the summer of 1958.[1] Late in 1959 he accepted an offer to return to Geneva at the beginning of 1960, but only after spending "several very fruitful weeks"[2] at each of the laboratories of Gunther Stent (University of California, Berkeley), Joshua Lederberg and Esther Lederberg[3] (Stanford University) and Salvador Luria (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Back at the University of Geneva, Arber worked in a laboratory in the basement of the Physics Institute, where he carried out productive research and hosted "a number of first class graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and senior scientists."[2] In 1965 the University of Geneva promoted him to Extraordinary Professor for Molecular Genetics. In 1971, after spending a year as a visiting professor in the Department of Molecular Biology of the University of California in Berkeley, Arber moved to the University of Basel. In Basel, he was one of the first persons to work in the newly constructed Biozentrum, which housed the departments of biophysics, biochemistry, microbiology, structural biology, cell biology and pharmacology and was thus conducive to interdisciplinary research.

Werner Arber is member of the World Knowledge Dialogue Scientific Board and of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences since 1981. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1984.[4] Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on January 2011, making him the first Protestant to hold the position.[5]

Personal life

Arber is married and has two daughters.

On his religious views, Arber has showed himself a theistic evolutionist, stating "The most primitive cells may require at least several hundred different specific biological macromolecules. How such already quite complex structures may have come together, remains a mystery to me. The possibility of the existence of a Creator, of God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem."[6] In addition he has affirmed: "I know that the concept of God helped me to master many questions in life; it guides me in critical situations, and I see it confirmed in many deep insights into the beauty of the functioning of the world."[7]


  1. ^ "Arber, Werner". 1929-06-03. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Werner Arber - Autobiography". 1929-06-03. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  3. ^ Again from Arber's Nobel Autobiography: "One of the first experiments after my return to Geneva was to render E. coli B and its radiation resistant strain B/r sensitive to phage lambda. The first step to accomplish this was easy thanks to a hint received from Esther Lederberg to look for cotransduction of the Ma1+ and lambdaS characters."
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Vatican appoints Protestant as scientific body's head -, Philippine News for Filipinos". 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  6. ^ Arber, W. 1992. The Existence of a Creator Represents a Satisfactory Solution. In Margenau, H. and R. A. Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens. La Salle, IL: Open Court, p. 141-142.
  7. ^ Arber, W. 1992. The Existence of a Creator Represents a Satisfactory Solution. In Margenau, H. and R. A. Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens. La Salle, IL: Open Court, p. 143.

Further reading

  • Konforti, B (Feb 2000). "History. The servant with the scissors". Nature Structural Biology 7 (2): 99–100.  
  • Raju, Tn (Oct 1999). "The Nobel chronicles. 1978: Werner Arber (b 1929); Hamilton O Smith (b 1931); Daniel Nathans (b 1928)". Lancet 354 (9189): 1567.  
  • Shampo, Ma; Kyle, Ra (Oct 1995). "Werner Arber--Nobel laureate". Mayo Clinic proceedings. Mayo Clinic 70 (10): 945.  
  • Kroon, Am (Feb 1979). "The Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1978 (Werner Arber, Daniel Nathans, Hamilton Smith)". Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde 123 (5): 153–6.  
  • Piekarowicz, A (1979). "Werner Arber, Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith. Nobel prizes for the studies on DNA restriction enzymes". Postepy biochemii 25 (2): 251–3.  
  • Berg, K (Dec 1978). "The Nobel prize in physiology and medicine 1978. Nobel prize to a controversial research field". Tidsskrift for den Norske laegeforening : tidsskrift for praktisk medicin, ny raekke 98 (34–36): 1741–2.  
  • Desiderio, S; Boyer, S (Nov 1978). "Arber, Smith and Nathans: Nobel Laureates in medicine and physiology, 1978". The Johns Hopkins medical journal 143 (5): ix–x.  
  • "The Nobel prizewinners 1978: medicine. From modest beginnings...". Nature 275 (5682): 689–90. Oct 1978.  
  • Peterson, Lr; Gerding, Dn (Aug 1978). "Protein binding and antibiotic concentrations". Lancet 2 (8085): 376.  
  • Petterson, R (1978). "Nobel prize laureates in physiology and medicine". Duodecim; laaketieteellinen aikakauskirja 94 (23): 1466–9.  

External links

  • Autobiography for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1978.
  • Official Biography from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
  • Free to View Video Interview with Werner Arber provided by the Vega Science Trust.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Nicola Cabibbo
President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
15 January 2011 –
Succeeded by
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