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Biography of Nobel Prize Winner Michael Smith

Biography of Nobel Prize Winner, Michael Smith

I was born on April 26th, 1932 in Blackpool, England. My childhood went by quickly. I was very bright in elementary school. My family wasn’t to rich, so I didn’t have the option to go to a private school. Luckily I earned a Scholarship to Arnold School. And although I didn’t like my peers, I tried hard at school and I did well. I was not proficient in Latin and so was not able to go to Oxford or Cambridge. However, I did enter the first-rate chemistry honours program at the University of Manchester in 1950, where the professors were E.R.H. Jones and M.G. Evans, and graduated in 1953, with the financial support of a Blackpool Education Committee Scholarship. I had hoped to get a first-class degree, but only got a 2(i)! I was very disappointed. However, I still was able to obtain a State Scholarship which supported me throughout my graduate studies until I finished my Ph.D. degree in 1956. My supervisor was H.B. Henbest. He was an outstanding young organic chemist, and I was glad to have him as a supervisor of my work on cyclohexane diols. However, we did not have a particularly warm relationship. I was socially shy and moody and was probably quite hard to understand. I heard of a very intelligent scientist in Vancouver, Gobind Khorana. I wrote to him and was awarded a fellowship after an interview in London with the Director of the British Columbia Research Council, Dr. G.M. Shrum.

I arrived in Vancouver in September 1956. My first project was to develop a general, efficient procedure for the chemical synthesis of nucleoside-5' triphosphates based on the synthesis of ATP by Khorana in 1954. Not the easiest thing to do let me tell you that. In 1960, the Khorana group, including myself, newly married (I have three children, Tom, Ian and Wendy. My wife Helen and we separated in early 1983), moved to the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin. I enjoyed my time there because of the opportunity it presented to learn about marine biology and I was able to sustain my interest in nucleic acid chemistry because of the award of a U.S. National Institutes of Health Grant, which led to a new synthetic method for nucleoside-3',5' cyclic phosphates. However, the atmosphere of the laboratory, although based on the campus...

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