Born into a poor family in British India, Har Gobind Khorana studied on scholarships and later bagged a seat at the University of Liverpool and thus moved to England. The renowned biochemist ended up winning the Nobel Prize for his research on how nucleotides in nucleic acids control protein synthesis.
Only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, Linus Carl Pauling was an American theoretical physical chemist, who received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on nature of chemical bond and 1962 Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to stop nuclear weapon testing. Also a prolific writer and educator, he has published 1,200 books and papers.
American biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, who has made fundamental contributions in biochemistry and genetics, is best-known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene-editing. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a method for genome editing through CRISPR, marking them as the only two women to share science Nobel ever.
The first woman to command the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born to farmers and decided to become an astronaut after watching the moon landing on TV. She also boasts of a PhD in biochemistry and has been a researcher and educator of biochemistry and genetic engineering.
A pioneer of psychedelic drug synthesis, Alexander Shulgin came to be known as The Godfather of Ecstasy, for reinventing the drug MDMA, or ecstasy, for medical use. The Harvard drop-out, who later studied psychiatry and pharmacology, would often experiment his newly invented drugs on himself, his wife, and his friends.
John Pemberton was an American pharmacist best remembered for his invention of Coca-Cola. A Confederate States Army veteran, Pemberton suffered from a wound sustained during the Battle of Columbus. The injury led him to experiment with different kinds of toxins and painkillers, which in turn helped him invent the recipe to make Coca-Cola.
The daughter of Jewish immigrants in New York, Gertrude B. Elion excelled in chemistry at Hunter College, where she studied for free, but was initially unable to find a job due to gender bias. The renowned biochemist and pharmacologist later won a Nobel and became a pioneer in medical research.
Austro-Hungarian-American biochemist Gerty Cori is best-known for discovering the course of catalytic conversion of glycogen with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori for which they jointly won the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. With this Gerty became the third woman to win a Nobel in science and the first to win it in this category.
10 Eric Kandel
Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist Eric Kandel is known for his research on the role of synapses in memory and learning. An Austrian Jew, he left his country with his family and moved to the U.S. in the wake of anti-Semitism. A doctor, specializing in psychiatry, he later taught at Columbia University.
Co-recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, Roger Yonchien Tsien began working on the subject in collaboration with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie while serving as professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University of California. Also a pioneer of calcium imaging, he is known for developing various dyes including Fura-2.
Born in Egypt, Rashad Khalifa later moved to the U.S., where he earned a PhD in biochemistry. Part of the USI and a supporter of the Quranist movement, he was found stabbed multiple times in a mosque in Arizona. It was later revealed that Sunni extremists had killed him.
13 Duane Gish
Apart from being a renowned biochemist, Duane Gish was also a World War II veteran and a prominent Creationist. He taught at Cornell and penned iconic books such as Evolution: The Fossils Say No! He was also known for his fiery debates and had headed the Institute for Creation Research.
The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Melvin Calvin earned scholarships to fund his studies and eventually earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. The University of California, Berkeley professor later won a Nobel for co-discovering the Calvin cycle, which explained the chemical pathways of photosynthesis.
15 Paul Berg
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Paul Berg is best known for his research on recombinant DNA techniques. The Stanford professor was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in New York and is a Penn State alumnus. He has also won the National Medal of Science, among other awards.
Marie Maynard Daly was the first Black lady to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry in the U.S. She was inspired by her father, who had to drop out of Cornell due to lack of funds. A pioneer of biochemistry, Daly later introduced a scholarship for African-American students at Queens College.
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and doctor Arthur Kornberg is best remembered for his research on DNA synthesis. Born to Jewish immigrants in New York, Kornberg assisted his father at his hardware shop as a child. He had also been a ship doctor for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Medical physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was the second woman and the first American woman to earn the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Best known for her research on the radioimmunoassay, or RIA, technique, she studied science at a time when women weren’t hired for science jobs.
Shannon Lucid once held the record for the longest space stay by any woman and by any American. Born in China, to missionaries, she was imprisoned by the Japanese, along with her parents, as an infant. The family then moved to the U.S., where Lucid studied at the University of Oklahoma.
American biochemist and Nobel laureate Marshall W. Nirenberg is best known for his research on solving the genetic code. The son of a Jewish shirtmaker father, Nirenberg showed an early interest in biology. He led the National Heart Institute’s genetics department and was associated with the National Institutes of Health.
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and Duke University professor Paul L. Modrich was born to a biology teacher and sports coach father. He studied at both MIT and Stanford and did his postdoctoral research at Harvard. He is best known for his discovery of DNA mismatch repair.
American molecular biologist and Nobel laureate Walter Gilbert pioneered research on the sequence of nucleotide links in DNA and RNA molecules. The Harvard and Cambridge alumnus later taught at Harvard. He also co-established firms dealing with genetic engineering and pharmaceutical research and was part of the Human Genome Project.
The son of an architect, Stanley B. Prusiner earned the nickname "little Genius" for inventing a bug repellent in school. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and neurologist is best known for discovering prions, or proteins that cause diseases, and thus suggesting an explanation for the mad cow disease.
American chemist Roger D. Kornberg studied at Harvard and Stanford and later taught at both these institutes. His research focuses on transcription, or the process of the conversion of DNA into RNA. Both he and his father have won the Nobel Prize, becoming the sixth father-son duo to achieve the feat.
25 David Julius
Born into a family of Polish immigrants, Robert Lefkowitz grew up to be a cardiologist and biochemist, and later taught at Duke University. He is best known for his research on the signal-receiving receptor molecules, such as the GPCRs, which eventually won him a Nobel Prize.
Gregory Goodwin Pincus revolutionized medical science by co-inventing the first oral contraceptive or birth control pill. The Cornell and Harvard alumnus was born to Russian Jewish immigrants and had an IQ of 210. Though he initially studied agriculture, he later focused on the study of hormones, steroids, and fertility.
Nobel laureate Stanley Cohen was born to a Jewish immigrant tailor and initially worked as a bacteriologist. The American biochemist revolutionized science with his research on cellular growth factors, helping later scientists understand the development of cancer cells. He spent most of his career at the Washington and Vanderbilt universities.
American molecular geneticist Joseph L. Goldstein was born to clothing store owner parents in South Carolina. He ended up winning a Nobel Prize for his research on cholesterol metabolism, which later helped researchers develop statin drugs. He currently chairs the molecular genetics department of the University of Texas.
30 Bruce Ames
University of California, Berkeley professor, biochemist, and geneticist Bruce Ames is largely known for his invention of the Ames test, used to test the ability of chemicals to cause mutations, and his studies on cancer and ageing. The Cornell and Caltech alumnus has been associated with the NIAMD, too.
Bruce Alberts switched to biophysics at Harvard after getting bored with physical chemistry. He later led the NAS as its president and co-wrote iconic text books such as Molecular Biology of the Cell. Apart from teaching at Princeton and Harvard, he worked to improve science education in schools.
Born in China, to an Austrian-born lawyer, Edmond H. Fischer studied in a Swiss boarding school and also aspired to be a musician. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is now best known for his path-breaking research on reversible phosphorylation, which regulates cell protein activity. He also taught at the University of Washington.
Born to Norwegian immigrants in the U.S., Christian Anfinsen initially excelled in both chemistry and football. His research on the structure of complex proteins and their biological functions earned him a Nobel Prize. He was also associated with the NIH and taught at Johns Hopkins University.
American biophysicist/biochemist and Yale University professor Thomas A. Steitz is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning work on the structure and function of ribosomes. The Harvard alumnus has also worked at molecular biology lab at Cambridge and has co-founded a pharma company that creates antibiotics based on ribosomes.
American cell biologist and biochemist James Rothman is best known for his ground-breaking research on cellular vesicles and membrane fusion, which laid the path for further research on immunological and neurological ailments. The Nobel laureate is a Yale and Harvard alumnus and has also taught at many prestigious universities.
American pharmacologist and Nobel laureate Alfred G. Gilman is best remembered for his research on G proteins. Born to a Yale pharmacology professor and author father, he was destined to make it big in science. He also taught at the University of Virginia and other institutes and co-established a biotechnology company.
Biochemist and Nobel laureate Robert W. Holley is best known for his research on the genetic code and its impact on protein synthesis. The Cornell alumnus focused on studying RNA after his year-long stint at Caltech in the mid-1950s. He has also worked at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Wendell Meredith Stanley is remembered for his pathbreaking research on viruses. He revealed the molecular structure of viruses by purifying and crystallizing them. He also penned a Pulitzer-nominated book, Chemistry: A Beautiful Thing, and was associated with the Rockefeller Institute and the University of California, Berkeley.
American biochemist, analytical chemist, and professor Paul Delos Boyer was the first Utah-born Nobel laureate. His elucidation of enzymatic mechanism underlying synthesis of adenosine triphosphate with John E. Walker led the two to jointly win the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which they co-received with Jens C. Skou for a separate research of the latter.
American biochemist Edwin Gerhard Krebs is best-known for collaborating with Edmond H. Fischer in elucidating the way reversible phosphorylation works as a switch in activating proteins and regulating different cellular processes. This key discovery of reversible protein phosphorylation led the two to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1992.
American pharmacologist and Nobel laureate Robert F. Furchgott revolutionized medical science by discovering that nitric oxide acts as a signal in the cardiovascular system of mammals. The Northwestern University alumnus had begun his career as a Cornell faculty member and was later associated with the SUNY-Brooklyn pharmacology department.
American biochemist and molecular endocrinologist Martin Rodbell is best remembered for his discovery of G-proteins while jointly investigating (with Alfred G. Gilman) stimulation of cells by adrenaline. The two jointly received the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of this family of proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells.
American biochemist Robert Bruce Merrifield is best known for pioneering the method for production of synthetic peptides in the lab called solid-phase peptide synthesis (SPPS). This invention of SPPS led Merrifield to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1984. He also won the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities Award in 1998 for his outstanding contributions to Biomolecular Technologies.
Vincent du Vigneaud was a biochemist who won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is remembered for his extensive work on the cyclic peptide oxytocin. He also conducted considerable research on insulin, biotin, transmethylation, and penicillin. He studied at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Rochester and proceeded to have a brilliant academic career.
Nobel Prize-winning chemist Edward Calvin Kendall is best known for his work on isolating thyroxine, or the thyroid hormone, and for crystallizing glutathione. He also revolutionized medical science by curing rheumatoid arthritis with cortisone, the steroid hormone he discovered. He was also associated with the Mayo Foundation and Princeton University.
Daniel E. Koshland Jr. made his own fortune in science in spite of being the son of Levi Strauss CEO Daniel E. Koshland Sr. and one of the most affluent men in America. Apart from working on the Manhattan Project, he also created the induced fit model of enzyme catalysis.
American geneticist Edward Lawrie Tatum worked with George Beadle and demonstrated that genes control individual steps in metabolism. This led them to win half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958. Tatum and Beadle conducted key experiments and proposed the one gene, one enzyme hypothesis where they suggested a direct link between genes and enzymatic reactions.
48 Mildred Cohn
Apart from facing discrimination as a Russian Jew, Mildred Cohn also battled gender bias, being denied a promotion at NACA for being the only woman among the 70 staff members. Her pioneering use of NMR in the study of enzyme reactions later earned her a National Medal of Science.
A Harvard alumnus, Lawrence Joseph Henderson was associated with the Harvard Medical School for almost four decades. His chief contribution as a biochemist was his proposal of the Henderson–Hasselbalch equation, which calculates the acid–base equilibria of substances. He also penned the iconic work The Fitness of the Environment.
Biochemist Edward Adelbert Doisy revolutionized science with his discovery of vitamin K, which prevents blood clotting, along with Henrik Dam, a feat that eventually won the duo a Nobel Prize. The Harvard alumnus later taught at the Washington and St. Louis universities. He also isolated hormones such as estrone.