Susumu Tonegawa Biography
(Immunologist, Molecular Biologist)
Birthday: September 5, 1939 (Virgo)
Born In: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Susumu Tonegawa is a Japanese molecular biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987. Renowned for his discovery of the genetic mechanism that produces antibody diversity, his work elucidated the genetic mechanism of the adaptive immune system. A molecular biologist by training, he changed fields and ventured into immunology studies before again changing fields to neuroscience. Born in Nagoya as the son of an engineer, he grew up in rural towns, enjoying the space and freedom of the countryside. He was sent to a high school in Tokyo where he developed an interest in science. It was during the years he spent at the Kyoto University that he became fascinated with operon theory after reading papers by François Jacob and Jacques Monod. He eventually moved to the University of California in the United States to pursue his doctorate. From there he went to the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland where he performed pioneering work in immunology, and discovered the genetic mechanism that produces antibody diversity. For this seminal work he was honored with several prestigious awards including the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He devoted the later years of his career to research in neuroscience, examining the molecular, cellular and neuronal basis of memory formation and retrieval.