The Evolution of Genes and Genomes

Sydney Brenner
Technical lecture
November 12, 1993

About the speaker

Sydney Brenner

University of Cambridge and Scripps Research Institute


He was born in Germiston, South Africa and received an MSc degree from the University of Witwatersrand in 1947, a MB.B.Ch. from the same university in 1951, and a D.Phil. from Oxford University in 1954.

Dr. Brenner became a member of the Scientific Staff of the Medical Research Council in 1957, joining what later became the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, and was Director of the laboratory from 1979 to 1986. He left the laboratory in 1986 to start the MRC Unit of Molecular Genetics and was its Director until 1991 when it was closed prior to his retirement from the Medical Research Council in September 1992.  His laboratory continues with private support in the Department of Medicine in the Cambridge Clinical School.

Dr. Brenner is known for his research in molecular genetics and particularly for his work on the genetic code and on the transfer of information from DNA to proteins.  Particularly noteworthy were his use of genetic methods to demonstrate the triplet nature of the genetic code, the existence of nonsense codons and mechanisms of mutagenesis and the discovery of messenger RNA. Subsequently, in the 1960's he was one of the first to turn his interests to the molecular biology of multicellular organisms and his pioneering research established the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a prime model for the genetic and cellular basis of development and behaviour.  That work is now being carried on by over 700 researchers around the world.

He presently works with a small group on the small genome of the Japanese Pufferfish.

Among his many honors, Dr. Brenner has been presented the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, and the Harvey Prize.