Arthur Kornberg

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Arthur Kornberg was a biochemist who was born in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. His parents, who immigrated to the United States from Austrian Galicia at the turn of the twentieth century, were poor merchants. Kornberg attended a public elementary school and attended college with the aid of scholarships. While studying for his medical degree, he developed an interest in research and conducted a poll to see whether jaundice was prevalent among medical students. The Director of the National Institutes of Health was intrigued by the article, which was published a year after he had his medical degree. On his request, Kornberg joined NIH and worked there for eleven years, using breaks to update his enzyme knowledge. Later, he began teaching at Washington University as a professor but continued his study. Three years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for isolating the DNA polymerizing enzyme that he was able to isolate here. Later, he moved to Stanford University, where he remained for the remainder of his life. Additionally, he was socially conscious and contributed his name to key movements.

Youth and Early Life

Arthur Kornberg was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on March 3, 1918. Joseph and Lena (née Katz) Kornberg were Jewish emigrants from what is now Poland’s Austrian Galicia.

Joseph Kornberg, Arthur’s father, had little formal education yet could speak at least six languages. In New York, he ran a candy store, but when his health declined, he later opened a hardware store. Arthur began assisting in the store when he became nine years old.

Arthur attended Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School, where he graduated in 1933. He was an extraordinarily good student from the outset. After winning a scholarship, he enrolled in a premedical course in biology and chemistry at City College of New York.

In 1937, he obtained his Bachelor of Science. He subsequently enrolled in the University of Rochester Medical Center for his medical degree and graduated in 1941 with an MD. This is where he developed an interest in medical research.

Kornberg had Gilbert syndrome, an inherited genetic disorder, and his blood contained a slightly elevated quantity of bilirubin. It rendered him vulnerable to jaundice. While attending medical school, he conducted a poll of his classmates to determine the prevalence of the syndrome.

Arthur Kornberg’s Career

After completing his medical degree in 1941, Kornberg began his internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, which he finished in 1942. As part of his military service, he joined the United States Coast Guard as a lieutenant and served as a ship’s doctor.

He released the results of the aforementioned poll in 1942. Its title, “The Occurrence of Jaundice in an Otherwise Normal Medical Student,” piqued the interest of Rolla Dyer, director of the National Institute of Health, who encouraged him to join his research team at the Nutritional Laboratory.

This chance was seized by Kornberg, who joined the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He was assigned to the Nutrition Section of the Physiology Division at this institution. It was his responsibility to search for new vitamins by feeding rats a customized diet. That did not inspire his interest.

Instead, he became fascinated with enzymes. In 1946, he relocated to Dr. Severo Ochoa’s laboratory at New York University to study enzyme purification methods. Simultaneously, he attended summer classes at Columbia University to upgrade his organic and physical chemistry knowledge.

The following year, 1947, Kornberg moved to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Here, he collaborated with Carl Ferdinand Cori for a few months before returning to the NIH in Bethesda.

He was given the task of organizing the Enzymes and Metabolism Section of the Physiology Division at the NIH, which he accomplished successfully. Subsequently, he became its Medical Director, a position he held until 1953.

During this time, Kornberg focused mostly on determining how Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate produced Adenosine triphosphate, a nucleoside triphosphate employed in cells as a coenzyme. This work served as the foundation for his later DNA research.

He came to Washington University in St. Louis in 1953 and remained there until 1959 as a Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology. Here, he continued his research on the enzymes believed to be crucial for the formation of DNA.

In 1956, he was finally able to isolate the DNA polymerizing enzyme, eventually dubbed DNA polymerase I. Interestingly, it was the first polymerase ever discovered. Three years later, he received the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

Kornberg came to Stanford University in 1959 as a Professor and Executive Head of the Department of Biochemistry, where he remained for the remainder of his career. Here, he initiated the establishment of a Department of Genetics, primarily to house another Nobel laureate, Laurent Joshua Lederberg.

Kornberg continued his studies on DNA production at Stanford. On this project, he collaborated closely with Mehran Goulian. On December 14, 1967, after years of arduous investigation, they finally revealed their triumph.
In addition to his work on DNA synthesis, Kornberg investigated how spores store DNA and produce new cells. Despite his minimal success, he ultimately abandoned this initiative.

In 1988, Kornberg officially retired from his position. Nonetheless, he never stopped working and maintained an active research laboratory at Stanford University until his passing.

In 1991, Kornberg began to focus on the metabolism of inorganic polyphosphate, which was considered a “molecular fossil” at the time. Eventually, he discovered numerous significant uses for it. For instance, he discovered that it responds to stresses and adversities; induces motility and pathogenicity in a number of the most prevalent diseases.

In addition to his academic activities, Kornberg enthusiastically pursued a teaching career. Many of his former students went on to become internationally renowned scientists and receive prestigious accolades.

He also published a number of articles. His published works include ‘Enzymatic Synthesis of DNA’ (1961), ‘DNA Synthesis’ (1974), ‘DNA Replication’ (1980), ‘For the Love of Enzymes: The Odyssey of a Biochemist’ (1989), ‘DNA Replication (2nd Edition) with Tania A. Baker’ (1992), and ‘The Golden Helix: Inside Biotech Ventures’ (1993). (2002).

Arthur’s Major Opera

The work that Kornberg did on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymerase is his legacy. In 1956, he discovered DNA Polymerase I (or Pol I) in the intestinal bacterium E. coli and identified it as a crucial enzyme for DNA replication, repair, and rearrangement.

In addition, he demonstrated how a single strand of DNA generated additional strands of nucleotides and demonstrated that DNA, as postulated by prior scientists, had a double helix shape. This finding contributed to the beginning of a biotechnology revolution, which had far-reaching effects.

Another of Kornberg’s key accomplishments involved the synthesis of synthetic DNA that was simultaneously physiologically active. The work contributed not just to future genetics research, but also to the treatment of inherited disorders and the management of viral infections.

Award & Achievements

Kornberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959 for his “discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.” Dr. Severo Ochoa, who was working on the same topic at the New York University College of Medicine, shared the award with him.

Before that, in 1951, Kornberg received the Paul-Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

In 1968, he received the American Medical Association’s Scientific Achievement Award, the Society of Medical Oncology’s Lucy Wortham James Award, and the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Borden Award in the Medical Sciences.

He also received the National Medal of Science in 1979, the Cosmos Club Award, and the Gairdner Foundation Award in 1995.
In addition, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. Moreover, he was a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He received countless honorary degrees from numerous prestigious institutions.

Personal History and Legacy

The wedding took place on November 21, 1943, between Kornberg and Sylvy Ruth Levy. She was also a distinguished biochemist and collaborated closely with him to discover DNA Polymerase I. Unfortunately, she did not get any recognition for her contribution. She died in 1986, survived by Kornberg and their three sons.

Their eldest son, Roger David Kornberg is a Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Stanford and a Nobel Laureate. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006 for discovering how genetic information is copied from DNA to RNA.

Thomas B. Kornberg, their second son, is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and is renowned for discovering DNA polymerase II and III (1970). Kenneth Andrew Kornberg, their youngest son, is an architect who specializes in the design of biomedical and biotechnology laboratories.

Kornberg remarried in 1988 to Charlene Walsh Levering, who also predeceased him in 1995, two years after the loss of his first wife. In the month of December 1998, he wed Carolyn Frey Dixon. They remained wed till his passing in 2007.

Kornberg died of respiratory failure in Stanford on October 26, 2007. His third wife Carolyn and three boys survived him.
The majority of his offspring (his students and postdoctoral colleagues) and grandkids (their students) became intellectuals. They are collectively known as “The Kornberg’s School of Biochemistry.”

Estimated Net Worth

Academic, non-fiction writer, chemist, university professor, biochemist, and physicist are the main sources of income for Arthur Kornberg, who has an estimated net worth of $8 million. Arthur Kornberg’s automobiles and way of life are not sufficiently supported by evidence.