My watch list  

Oliver Smithies

Oliver Smithies
BornJune 23 1925 (1925-06-23) (age 87)
Halifax, West Yorkshire, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom, United States
FieldBiochemistry, genetics
InstitutionsUniversity of Toronto
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke University
Alma materBalliol College, University of Oxford
Known forGel electrophoresis, gene targeting
Notable prizesAlbert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2001)
Wolf Prize in Medicine (2002)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2007)

Oliver Smithies (born June 23, 1925) is a British-born American geneticist and Nobel laureate,[1] credited with the invention of gel electrophoresis in 1950, and the simultaneous discovery, with Mario Capecchi, of the technique of homologous recombination of transgenic DNA with genomic DNA, a much more reliable method of altering animal genomes than previously used, and the technique behind gene targeting and knockout mice.


Early life

Smithies was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. He has said that his love of science comes from an early fascination with radios and telescopes.[2]

Smithies read Physiology for a BA First class 1946 and then earned a second bachelor's degree in chemistry.[3] He also received a MA 1951 and a DPhil in Biochemistry in 1951 at Balliol College, Oxford. On scholarship to Oxford, Smithies dropped out of medical school to study chemistry instead.[2]

Professional positions and research

From 1953 to 1960, Smithies worked in the Connaught Medical Research Laboratory, University of Toronto, Canada, due to visa problems,[2] before he could return to his originally planned post as Assistant, Associate and Leon J. Cole and Hilldale Professor of Genetics and Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he worked from 1960 to 1988.[2]

Since 1988, Smithies has been designated an Excellence Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[4]

Smithies also works at the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy [5]

Smithies' work has advanced research in cystic fibrosis and could possibly have applications in other human diseases.[6] Along with gel electrophoresis, he developed gene targeting, a method of creating mice with more human-like characteristics for use in research.

He and Mario Capecchi both came to the same discoveries regarding gene targeting independently.[4] Smithies developed the technique while at the University of Wisconsin.

In 2002, Smithies worked along with his wife, Dr. Nobuyo Maeda, studying high blood pressure using genetically altered mice.[4] As of 1995, he still worked in his lab seven days a week.[3]

Awards and honors

On October 8, 2007, Smithies was announced as co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah and Martin Evans of Cardiff University "for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells." Smithies is the first full professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to receive a Nobel Prize.[6] Previous awards and honors received by Oliver Smithies include:

  • 1971 - Elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.
  • 1978 - Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1986 - Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • 1990 - Smithies received the Gairdner Foundation International Award for contributions to medical science. The award is often considered a precursor to the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and Smithies won it twice.[7] He also won the Alfred P. Sloan Award from the General Motors Foundation, the Ciba Award from the American Heart Foundation and the Bristol Myers Squibb Award.[7]
  • 1991 - Smithies was given an honorary degree by the University of Chicago.[8]
  • 1993 - He won the North Carolina Award for Science.[9]
  • 1998 - American Association of Medical Colleges' Award for Distinguished Research was awarded to Smithies and Capecchi.
  • 1998 - Elected Foreign Member of the Royal Society.
  • 2000 - Smithies won the International Okamoto Award from the Japan Vascular Disease Research Foundation in 2000, a prize with one million yen ($10,000); he accepted the award at the Gion Festival in Japan.[10]
  • 2001 - Smithies was a recipient of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with Martin Evans and Mario Capecchi for their work on homologous recombination; the award is often seen as an "American Nobel."[11]
  • 2002 - Smithies was given the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest award for faculty in the University of North Carolina system, along with the 2002 Massry Award shared with Capecchi for their pioneering work on genes. The Massry Prize is awarded by the Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation of Beverly Hills, California, and the winner receives $40,000 along with a gold medal.[4]
  • 2003 - Smithies was elected to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, one of the highest honors given to U.S. health professionals.[7] Also in 2003, Smithies received the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the third most prestigious award in medicine, along with Mario Capecchi and Ralph L. Brinster. In 2005, the USA charity March of Dimes awarded their $250,000 annual prize in Developmental Biology for research in gene targeting jointly to Smithies and Mario Capecchi.[12][13]

Personal life

Despite being color-blind, Smithies is a licensed private airplane pilot who enjoys gliding.[2][3] Smithies became a naturalized American citizen.[14] His wife, Nobuyo Maeda, is a pathology professor at UNC; he was previously married to Lois Kitze, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin.[3] After Maeda did not get offered a job from Wisconsin and was hired instead by UNC, Smithies moved to Chapel Hill as well.[3]


  1. ^ The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007. The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-10-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e 3 Win Nobel in Medicine for Gene Technology. New York Times. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e SCIENTIST AT WORK: Oliver Smithies; Sprinting Along for Five Decades. New York Times. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d Smithies wins top award from Massry Foundation. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill News Service. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  5. ^ A Conversation with Oliver Smithies, Genetics Pioneer. Duke University. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  6. ^ a b "UNC professor wins Nobel Prize", The Daily Tarheel. Retrieved on 2007-10-09. 
  7. ^ a b c Institute of Medicine elects Oliver Smithies. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill News Service. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  8. ^ Commencements; First Lady Urges Tolerance at Northeastern Graduation. New York Times. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Oliver Smithies wins major award from Japanese research foundation. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill News Service. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  11. ^ 2001 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. Lasker Foundation. Retrieved on 1 October 2007.
  12. ^ March of Dimes Awards $250,000 Prize to Pioneers in Genetic Research. University of Utah. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  13. ^ March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology: Previous Recipients. March of Dimes. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  14. ^ "Knockout Mice" Designers Win Nobel Prize. Reuters. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
NAME Smithies, Oliver
SHORT DESCRIPTION Biochemistry, genetics, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007.
DATE OF BIRTH 23 June 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH Halifax, West Yorkshire, England
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oliver_Smithies". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE