A scientist, meteorologist, mathematician, and biologist, Gregor Mendel is considered the founder of the modern science of genetics. He conducted a series of experiments on pea plants between 1856 and 1863, establishing many rules of heredity. Besides his work on pea plants, he also described novel plant species and conducted experiments with hawkweed and honeybees.
Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning geneticist M. S. Swaminathan is best known for his contribution to the Indian Green Revolution. Featured on Time, he introduced high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice seedlings to Indian farmers. He is also known for his administrative work as part of the Indian civil services.
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A pioneer of molecular biology, Oswald Avery revolutionized science with his research on the chemical processes involved in immunology. The Canadian-American bacteriologist initially aspired to be a musician. He later proved that DNA was the basis of heredity. Though nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times, he never won it.
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Nobel Prize-winning Canadian-American biochemist and geneticist Jack W. Szostak revolutionized medical science with his research on the manipulation of genes. The Cornell alumnus is credited with creating the first yeast artificial chromosome. He has also taught at the Harvard Medical School. In spite of being Polish, he doesn’t speak the language.
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Nazi leader Eugen Fischer co-wrote Human Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene, which became one of the definitive texts of the Nazi policies. Hitler also made him the rector of the University of Berlin. His memoir diluted his role in the mass extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a German developmental biologist. She studied at the University of Tübingen where she earned a Ph.D. for her research on protein–DNA interactions. Together with biologist Eric Wieschaus and geneticist Edward B. Lewis, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. She is also a recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize.
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.
German biologist and eugenicist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was an advocate of racial hygiene and the mandatory sterilization of the physically and mentally disabled. He also led the Nazi experiments on twins based on body parts made available to him from the inmates of various concentration camps.
Francisco J. Ayala is a Spanish-born American evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist, best known for his investigation on the process of genetic variation and natural selection at molecular level. He also undertook research on public health, providing new ideas on the prevention and treatment of diseases and expounded how Darwin’s theory of evolution is well-matched to religious theory of creation.
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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.