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Howard Martin Temin: Wikis


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Howard Martin Temin
Born December 10, 1934
Died February 9, 1994
Nationality United States of America
Institutions University of Wisconsin–Madison
Alma mater California Institute of Technology
Known for reverse transcriptase
Notable awards 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Howard Martin Temin (December 10, 1934 – February 9, 1994) was a U.S. geneticist. Along with Renato Dulbecco and David Baltimore he discovered reverse transcriptase in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for which he shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Scientific career

Temin's description of how tumor viruses act on the genetic material of the cell through reverse transcription was revolutionary. This upset the widely held belief at the time of the "Central Dogma" of molecular biology posited by Nobel laureate Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (along with James Watson and Rosalind Franklin). Crick, along with most other molecular biologists of the day, believed genetic information to flow exclusively from DNA to RNA to protein. Temin showed that certain tumor viruses carried the enzymatic ability to reverse the flow of information from RNA back to DNA using reverse transcriptase. This phenomenon was also independently and simultaneously discovered by David Baltimore, with whom Temin shared the Nobel Prize.[1]

The discovery of reverse transcriptase is one of the most important of the modern era of medicine, as reverse transcriptase is the central enzyme in several widespread human diseases, such as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and Hepatitis B. Reverse transcriptase is also an important component of several important techniques in molecular biology and diagnostic medicine. Temin received the National Medal of Science in 1992.

Personal life

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a long-time advocate against smoking, Temin died at the age of 59 from lung cancer, although he himself was never a smoker. A bicycle/walking path on the campus of the UW–Madison is named in his honor. He received his bachelor's degree in Biology from Swarthmore College in 1955 and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1959.

Temin's wife Rayla was also a geneticist. Temin's brother Peter is the Elisha Gray II Professor of Economics at MIT, and was formerly the head of the Economics Department.


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