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Elizabeth Blackburn

Born November 26, 1948 (1948-11-26) (age 61)
Hobart, Tasmania
Residence US
Citizenship Australian and American
Fields molecular biology
Institutions Yale University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Francisco, the Salk Institute
Alma mater University of Melbourne,
University of Cambridge, England, UK
Doctoral students include Carol W. Greider
Notable awards Heineken Prize, Lasker Award, Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009)

Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, FRS (born November 26, 1948) is an Australian-born biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the chromosome. Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere. For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. She also worked in medical ethics, and was controversially dismissed from the President's Council on Bioethics.


Early life and education

Blackburn was born in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Her parents, Harold and Marcia Blackburn, were both medical practitioners (physicians). Blackburn attended Broadland House School in Launceston, Tasmania. Her family then moved to Melbourne, Victoria, where she attended the University High School, Melbourne. After graduation from high school, Blackburn attended the University of Melbourne, residing in Janet Clarke Hall (University of Melbourne), where she earned her B.Sc. degree in 1970, and her M.Sc. degree in 1972, and Darwin College, Cambridge,[1] where she earned her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge. Her postdoctoral study in molecular and cellular biology was at Yale University, Connecticut in 1975–77.

Work in molecular biology

In 1978, Blackburn joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she moved across the San Francisco Bay to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she served as the Department Chairwoman from 1993 to 1999. Blackburn is currently the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at UCSF, and a non-resident fellow of the Salk Institute. She is the president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research. In recent years Blackburn and her colleagues have been investigating the effect of stress on telomerase and telomeres.


Blackburn was appointed a member of the President's Council on Bioethics in 2001. She supported human embryonic cell research, in opposition to the Bush Administration. Her Council terms were terminated by White House directive on February 27, 2004.[2] This was followed by expressions of outrage over her removal by many scientists, who maintained that she was fired because of political opposition to her advice.[3]

"There is a growing sense that scientific research — which, after all, is defined by the quest for truth — is being manipulated for political ends," wrote Blackburn. "There is evidence that such manipulation is being achieved through the stacking of the membership of advisory bodies and through the delay and misrepresentation of their reports."[4][5]

Blackburn serves on the Science Advisory Board of the Genetics Policy Institute.


Blackburn is married to John W. Sedat, and has a son, Benjamin.[6]

Awards and honors

In 2007, Blackburn was listed among Time Magazine's The TIME 100—The People Who Shape Our World.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Brady, Catherine (2007), Elizabeth Blackburn and the story of telomeres: deciphering the ends of DNA, Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 21, ISBN 9780262026222  
  2. ^ Blackburn, E. & Rowley, J. (2004), "Reason as Our Guide", PLoS Biology 2 (4): e116, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020116  
  3. ^ AP (2004-03-19). "Scientists rally around stem cell advocate fired by Bush". Retrieved 2008-05-30.  
  4. ^ Bioethics and the Political Distortion of Biomedical Science Elizabeth Blackburn, N Engl J Med 350:1379-1380 (April 1, 2004)
  5. ^ A Nobel prize for a Bush critic By Andrew Leonard,, Oct. 5, 2009 Free text. Extensive quotation from Blackburn's article.
  6. ^ UCSF’s Elizabeth Blackburn Receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, By Jennifer O'Brien. Press release.
  7. ^ a b "Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-10-05.  
  8. ^ "Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak share Nobel". Dolan DNA Learning Center. Retrieved 2009-10-05.  
  9. ^
  10. ^ Alice Park. "The Time 100: Elizabeth Blackburn". Time Magazine.,28804,1595326_1595329_1616029,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-30.  

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Mina Bissell
ASCB Presidents
Succeeded by
Randy Schekman

Simple English

Elizabeth Blackburn
File:Elizabeth Blackburn
Elizabeth Blackman, 2009
Hobart, Tasmania
InstitutionsUniversity of California, San Francisco
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne, University of Cambridge
Known forChromosomes, telomeres
Notable prizesNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009)

Elizabeth Blackburn (b. 1948)[1] is an Australian scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009. She won the award together with Americans Jack Szostak and Carol Greider for their work on chromosomes.[2] They researched the way that telomeres protect the chromosomes in cells.[3] It is believed that this will help prevent the spread of cancer. Blackburn is the first Australian woman to win a Nobel Prize.[3]

Blackburn was born in Hobart, Tasmania and went to Broadford girls school in Launceston, and later Melbourne University High School.[3] She studied at the University of Melbourne and completed her Phd at Cambridge. She is now Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California, San Francsico.[1]

On 26 January 2010, the Australian Government made Blackburn a Companion of the Order of Australia.[4]



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