Frederick Sanger

Frederick Sanger

Infobox Scientist
name = Frederick Sanger

birth_date = birth date and age|1918|08|13
birth_place = Gloucestershire, England
residence =
nationality = United Kingdom
field = Biochemist
work_institutions = Laboratory of Molecular Biology
alma_mater = St John's College, Cambridge
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for =
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences =
influenced =
prizes = Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1958)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1980)
footnotes =

Frederick Sanger, OM, CH, CBE, FRS (born 13 August 1918) is an English biochemist and twice a Nobel laureate in chemistry. He is the fourth (and only living) person to have been awarded two Nobel Prizes.

Early years

Sanger was born in Rendcomb, a small village in Gloucestershire, the second son of Frederick Sanger, a medical practitioner, and his wife, Cicely. He was born on August 13, 1918, and educated at Bryanston School and then completed his Bachelor of Arts in natural sciences from St John's College, Cambridge in 1939. Raised as a Quaker, he learned to abhor violence, and during the Second World War he was a conscientious objector, being allowed to continue his research for a PhD.

He originally intended to study medicine, but became interested in biochemistry because some of the leading biochemists in the world were at Cambridge at the time. He completed his PhD in 1943 under A. Neuberger, on lysine metabolism and a more practical problem concerning the nitrogen of potatoes. He went on to discover the structure of proteins, most famously that of insulin protein. He also contributed to the determination of base sequences in DNA.


Sanger determined the complete amino acid sequence of insulin in 1955. In doing so, he proved that proteins have definite structures. He began by degrading insulin into short fragments by mixing the trypsin enzyme (that hydrolyses the peptide/amide bonds between amino acids that make up the primary structure of proteins) with an insulin solution. He then undertook a form of chromatography on the mixture by applying a small sample of the mixture to one end of a sheet of filter paper. He passed a solvent through the filter paper in one direction, and passed an electric current through the paper in the opposite direction. Depending on their solubility and charge, the different fragments of insulin moved to different positions on the paper, creating a distinct pattern. Sanger called these patterns “fingerprints”. Like human fingerprints, these patterns were characteristic for each protein, and reproducible. He reassembled the short fragments into longer sequences to deduce the complete structure of insulin. Sanger concluded that the protein insulin had a precise amino acid sequence. It was this achievement that earned him his first Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1958.

In 1975, he developed the chain termination method of DNA sequencing, also known as the "Dideoxy termination method" or the "Sanger method". [Sanger F, Nicklen S, Coulson AR., DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1977 Dec;74(12):5463-7] Two years later he used his technique to successfully sequence the genome of the Phage Φ-X174; the first fully sequenced DNA-based genome. He did this entirely by hand. This has been of key importance in such projects as the Human Genome Project and earned him his second Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1980, together with Walter Gilbert. The only other laureates to have done so were Marie Curie, Linus Pauling and John Bardeen. He is the only person to receive both prizes in chemistry. In 1979, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University together with Walter Gilbert and Paul Berg, co-winners of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Later life

Frederick Sanger retired in 1983. In 1992, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council founded the Sanger Centre (now the Sanger Institute), named after him. The Sanger Institute, located near Cambridge, England, is one of the world's most important centres for genome research and played a prominent role in sequencing the human genome.

Almost his only public utterance in two decades was to put his name to a letter by other UK Nobel laureates protesting about the Iraq war. Referring to his youthful conscientious objection, he said, "I still hate war. That is why I signed that letter". In 2007 the British Biochemical Society was given a grant by the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and preserve the 35 laboratory notebooks in which Sanger recorded his remarkable research from 1958 to 1983. In reporting this matter, Science magazine noted that Sanger, "the most self-effacing person you could hope to meet," now was spending his time gardening at his Cambridgeshire home. ["A Life in Science" from the "Newsmakers" page edited by Yudhijit Bhattachjee, Science 317: 879, 2007]

Even in retirement Sanger has used his extensive knowledge of DNA to aid modern scientists and academics in their work.

Awards and honours

* Doctor of Philosophy - 1943
* Fellow of the Royal Society - 1954
* Order of the British Empire - 1963
* Order of the Companions of Honour - 1981
* Order of Merit (Commonwealth) - 1986
* Nobel Prize in Chemistry - 1958, 1980


External links

* [ The Sanger Institute]
* [ About Fred Sanger, biography from the Sanger Institute]
* [ About the 1958 Nobel Prize]
* [ About the 1980 Nobel Prize]
* Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities 1994 Award
* [ Fred Sanger] Freeview Video Documentary by The Vega Science Trust
* [ National Portrait Gallery]
* [ Autobiography]
* [ The Official Site of Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize]

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  • Frederick Sanger — OM, CH, CBE (* 13. August 1918 in Rendcombe, Großbritannien) ist ein britischer Biochemiker. Er gehört zu den wenigen Personen, die zweimal mit dem Nobelpreis geehrt wurden: 1958 erhielt Sanger den Nobelpreis für Chemie (als alleiniger… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Frederick Sanger — noun English biochemist who determined the sequence of amino acids in insulin and who invented a technique to determine the genetic sequence of an organism (born in 1918) • Syn: ↑Sanger, ↑Fred Sanger • Instance Hypernyms: ↑biochemist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chemienobelpreis 1958: Frederick Sanger —   Der britische Chemiker erhielt den Nobelpreis für seine Arbeiten über die Struktur von Proteinen, insbesondere über die Struktur von Insulin.    Biografie   Frederick Sanger, * Rendcomb (England) 13. 8. 1918; 1943 Promotion auf dem Gebiet der… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Chemienobelpreis 1980: Paul Berg — Walter Gilbert — Frederick Sanger —   Berg erhielt den Nobelpreis für »seine grundlegenden Untersuchungen zur Biochemie von Nucleinsäuren, vor allem für seine Untersuchungen zu rekombinanter DNS«, Gilbert und Sanger wurden für »ihre Beiträge zur Bestimmung von Basensequenzen in… …   Universal-Lexikon

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