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Fellows Directory

Walter Gilbert

Walter Gilbert

Professor Walter Gilbert ForMemRS

Foreign Member

Elected: 1987


Walter Gilbert is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who started his career in theoretical physics before moving to molecular biology, working hard to compensate for his lack of formal training in the field. Walter has made many major discoveries concerning gene control and nucleic acids and is best known for devising one of the first methods of DNA sequencing.

Knowledge of DNA sequences is instrumental for basic biological research as well as applied fields such as diagnostic, biotechnology and virology. In the mid-1970s, Walter and Allan Maxam found a way to determine the precise sequence of nucleotide ‘links’ in the chainlike molecules of nucleic acids, using radioactive labelling. The resulting Maxam–Gilbert sequencing proved popular as it offered certain advantages over the Sanger dideoxynucleotide method.

Walter was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work in nucleic acids, which he shared with Frederick Sanger and Paul Berg. He has since been involved with the Human Genome Project, an international scientific research project to compile a complete map of the gene sequences in human DNA.

Professional positions

Chair, Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Founder, Vice-Chairman, Myriad Genetics
Carl M Loeb University Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harvard University

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
    • Biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
    • Genetics (excluding population genetics)


DNA, Genes, evolution, RNA, RNA World


  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Half of prize awarded jointly with Frederick Sanger for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids.

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