Michael Smith (chemist)

Canadian Nobel laureate in chemistry

Michael Smith CC, OBC, FRS (April 26, 1932 – October 4, 2000) was a British-born Canadian biochemist. He was the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Kary Mullis) for his work in developing site-directed mutagenesis.[1]

Michael Smith
Michael Smith
Born(1932-04-26)26 April 1932
Died4 October 2000(2000-10-04) (aged 68)
Alma materUniversity of Manchester
Known forMutagenesis
AwardsFlavelle Medal (1992)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1993)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of British Columbia

After graduation with a PhD in 1956 from the University of Manchester, he studied with Dr. Har Gobind Khorana (himself a Nobel Prize winner) at the British Columbia Research Council in Vancouver, Canada.

Smith received many awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, and was known for his generosity. He gave half of the Nobel Prize money to researchers working on the genetics of schizophrenia. The other half he gave to BC Science World in Vancouver and to the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology. He received the Royal Bank Award in 1999, and donated the grant to the BC Cancer Foundation.[2][3]

Site-specific mutagenesis


In 1978, Smith, with former Fred Sanger colleague Clyde A. Hutchison III, introduced a new technique into molecular biology. This technique, called "oligonucleotide-directed site-directed mutagenesis", showed how to find the effect of a single mutant gene. They developed a synthetic DNA. With this they compared different protein molecules to show what the mutation did.

The new technology allowed deliberate alteration of genes to change the characteristics of an organism. It helps new diagnostic strategies and new treatments for genetic diseases. It may even allow the creation of artificial forms of life.[4]

The team's paper describing site-directed mutagenesis was published as "Mutagenesis at a specific position in a DNA sequence" in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in September 1978.[5][6] For the team's work, Smith shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Kary Mullis, the inventor of the polymerase chain reaction.



  1. Astell C. and Damer E. 2004. No Ordinary Mike--Michael Smith, Nobel laureate. Ronsdale Press.
  2. "science.ca : Michael Smith". www.science.ca.
  3. "Welcome - Michael Smith Laboratories". www.msl.ubc.ca.
  4. Smith, Michael 1993. Synthetic DNA and biology. Nobel Lecture
  5. Smith M. and Gillam S. 1981. Constructed mutants using synthetic oligodeoxyribonucleotides as site-specific mutagens. In: Genetic engineering. principles and methods. J.K. Setlow and A. Hollaender (eds) Volume 3. Plenum Press, New York, l-52.
  6. Smith M. 1985. In vitro mutagenesis. Ann. Rev. Genet. 19: 423-462.