David Baltimore was born in New-York in 1938. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rockefeller Institute where he received his doctorate. In 1965, Baltimore began research on the polio virus at the Salk Institute in California. While there, he discovered the way in which the virus replicates its genetic information found in the form of RNA.
In 1968, Baltimore moved to MIT and began studying other RNA viruses known to cause cancer in animals. He was surprised to find that they did not contain the enzyme necessary for their replication. According to the prevailing theory of the time, the transition from DNA to RNA is a one-way process. Baltimore found that with the aid of the enzyme “reverse transcriptase”, the viruses could change the process and build molecules of DNA on a RNA template.
Baltimore was awarded the 1975 Nobel prize for physiology and medicine, jointed with Renato Dulbecco and Howard Temin, “for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell”. The work of the three researchers forged a link between two theories; the first claims that cancerous cells undergo genetic change due to mutation and the second holds that viruses can cause cancer.
The discovery of the “reverse transcriptase” accelerated the progress being made in the fields of molecular biology and genetic engineering, thus expanding an understanding of the replicating mechanism of retroviruses, including the AIDS virus.
Leonid Kantorovich was born in Russia in 1912.
He received the 1975 Nobel prize in economic sciences “For his contribution to the theory of optimum allocation of resources.”
Kantorovich succeeded in developing his brilliant theory, and in leading the way to economic reform in the Soviet Union from within the severe political restrictions of Marxist dogma.
Leonid Kantorovich passed away in 1986.
Benjamin Mottelson was born in Chicago in 1926.
He received the 1975 Nobel prize in physics, together with Aage Bohr and James Rainwater, for the development of a collective nucleus model, which explains the electric quadrupole phenomena, an uneven distribution of electrical charge in the nucleus.
Howard Temin was born in Philadelphia in 1934. At the age of 25, he received a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology. He taught and conducted research, and in 1969, became a professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1975, in conjunction with David Baltimore and Renato Dulbecco, Howard Temin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell.”
The greatest discovery of the three scientists was their explanation of the mechanism that changes a normal cell into a cancerous one when infected by a tumor virus. They showed that the virus encodes its genetic information into the genome of the normal cell and exploits the cell to replicate viral molecules. This strategy is particularly effective because it does not destroy the host cell. Quite to the contrary, the cell is prompted to multiply and simultaneously produce additional viruses.
Temin and Baltimore proved that viruses are capable of creating DNA from an RNA template. This discovery ran counter to the prevailing dogma among scientists at that time.