Walter Gilbert

American biochemist

Walter Gilbert (born March 21, 1932) is an American physicist, biochemist, molecular biology pioneer, and Nobel laureate. He helped develop DNA sequence analysis.

Walter Gilbert
Born (1932-03-21) March 21, 1932 (age 92)
Alma materHarvard University, University of Cambridge
AwardsNobel Prize in Chemistry
Scientific career
FieldsBiochemistry, physics
InstitutionsHarvard University
Doctoral advisorAbdus Salam
Doctoral studentsGerald Guralnik



Gilbert was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 21, 1932.[1] Gilbert attended Harvard University for undergraduate and graduate studies, earning a first degree in chemistry and physics in 1953 and a master's degree in physics in 1954.[1]

Gilbert's doctoral work was done at the University of Cambridge, where he earned his PhD in mathematics under the mentorship of Nobel laureate Abdus Salam in 1957.[1]

Gilbert returned to Harvard in 1957 and promoted in 1968 to professor of biochemistry.[1] In 1969, Gilbert was given Harvard's Ledlie Prize.[1] In 1972, Gilbert was named American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology.[1]

He is a co-founder of the biotech start-up companies Biogen and Myriad Genetics. Gilbert is currently the chairman of the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Research findings


Together with Allan Maxam, Gilbert developed a new DNA sequencing method in 1976.[2] With George Church he developed the first direct genomic sequencing method in 1984.[3]

Gilbert first proposed the existence of introns and exons and explained the evolution of introns in a seminal 1978 "News and Views" paper published in Nature. In 1986, Gilbert used the phrase RNA world hypothesis for the origin of life.[4] 'RNA World' was a concept first proposed by Carl Woese in 1967.



Gilbert was given the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, shared with Frederick Sanger and Paul Berg. Gilbert and Sanger were recognized for their pioneering work in devising methods for determining the sequence of nucleotides in a nucleic acid.

Among many other awards, Gilbert was made a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1987.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Shampo MA, Kyle RA (May 2003). "Walter Gilbert--1980 Nobel Prize for Chemistry". Mayo Clin. Proc. 78 (5): 588. doi:10.4065/78.5.588. PMID 12744546.[permanent dead link]
  2. Maxam A. & Gilbert W. 1977. A new method for sequencing DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 74 (2): 560–564. [1] PMID 265521
  3. Church G. & Gilbert W. 1984. Genomic sequencing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 81 (7): 1991–1995. [2] PMID 6326095
  4. Gilbert, W. 1986. Origin of life: the RNA world. Nature 319 (6055): 618–618

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