223 pages, 8 colour & 94 b/w illustrations
Considered 'the father of genomics', Fred Sanger (1918-2013) paved the way for the modern revolution in our understanding of biology. His pioneering methods for sequencing proteins, RNA and, eventually, DNA earned him two Nobel Prizes. He remains one of only four scientists (and the only British scientist) ever to have achieved that distinction.
In this, the first full biography of Fred Sanger to be published, Brownlee traces Sanger's life from his birth in rural Gloucestershire to his retirement in 1983 from the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Along the way, he highlights the remarkable extent of Sanger's scientific achievements and provides a real portrait of the modest man behind them. Including an extensive transcript of a rare interview of Sanger by the author, this biography also considers the wider legacy of Sanger's work, including his impact on the Human Genome Project and beyond.
"Fred Sanger's innovation and achievements enabled us to read the code of life. His breakthroughs transformed science, medicine, industry and society, and continue to open our eyes to a new knowledge and understanding of how life works. [...] This book provides a rare opportunity to see a glimpse of a remarkable man who changed the world."
- David Bentley, Vice-President and chief scientist, Illumina Inc.
"Every student of molecular biology would profit greatly by lingering over Sanger's own descriptions of the several strategies he attempted and the tools he had to invent to arrive at what is referred to today as Sanger DNA Sequencing. [...] Sanger's success transformed molecular biology in inestimable ways and his methodology is equally foundational in such varied fields as evolutionary biology, plant breeding, paleontology, anthropology, linguistics, forensics and computer science. [...] Fred Sanger was motivated by the challenge of discovery and believed fervently that through art and science, in their broadest senses, it is possible to make a lasting contribution towards the improvement and enrichment of human life.'
- Paul Berg, Stanford University, California
"As this wonderfully illuminating biography of Sanger reveals, his contributions were deceptively simple but profoundly far-reaching. [...] Fred Sanger was truly an extraordinary individual whose influence in modern biological and biomedical sciences cannot be overstated."
- Elizabeth Blackburn, University of California, San Francisco
"Fred Sanger was an extraordinary scientist as is evident from this informative biographical essay, celebrating his life and his contributions to science. To be awarded one Nobel Prize is very rare, to be awarded two, as was the case for Fred, has only been accomplished by four individuals in over one hundred years. His was a truly outstanding life [...] Fred is one of those few individuals of whom it can be said that they changed the world for ever. This essay gives a personal insight into his science and what he achieved. It allows all of us to be a little closer to this gentle, modest man of genius."
- Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, London
"Sanger, typical of many successful scientists, is reserved, even shy so we are fortunate that he offered to be interviewed. This book provides a wide-ranging account of his early life and his scientific career [...] The biography will provide inspiration and encouragement for aspiring inventors, for whom there is still a great need. Above all, it provides lessons for the funders: to find the next Sanger, they must be prepared to give long term support with strings loosely attached."
- Sir Ed Southern, University of Oxford, from the Foreword
"If you type the word 'Sanger' into a search engine, you may find that the Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge – named after Fred – comes out on top. I think he wouldn't have minded that. He has a living memorial – better than a statue [...] Sanger taught us to read the information of life, so that we can begin to understand it."
- Sir John Sulston, founding Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge
Foreword Sir Edwin Southern
Brief chronology and honours
1. A Quaker upbringing
2. How about studying insulin?
3. Radioactive sequencing of proteins and nucleic acids
4. Interview of Fred by the author in 1992. Early life
5. Interview of Fred by the author in 1992. Insulin and the Biochemistry Department, Cambridge University
6. Interview of Fred by the author, 1992. Nucleic Acids at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge
7. Post-Sanger sequencing - high throughput, automated sequencing
8. Cancer - the impact of New Generation Sequencing
9. Commentaries on Fred Sanger's scientific legacy by Paul Berg, Elizabeth Blackburn, Sir John Sulston, David Bentley and Paul Nurse
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George G. Brownlee is Emeritus Professor of Chemical Pathology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. He studied under Fred Sanger at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, where he later became an independent researcher. He is a recipient of the Biochemical Society's Colworth and Wellcome Trust medals, a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences and is an EMBO member. He received the Haemophilia Medal (France) and gave the Owren Lecture (Norway) for his pioneering work on haemophilia. He retired in 2008 to write this biography.