Hamilton Othanel Smith

Hamilton Othanel Smith

Smith, Hamilton Othanel, 1931-, American biologist, b. New York City, M.D. Johns Hopkins, 1956. A professor at the Univ. of Michigan and Johns Hopkins, Smith worked with Daniel Nathans and Werner Arber studying the nature of genes. The trio discovered and used certain enzymes that break down genetic material in order to study hereditary mutation in bacteria. For their work the three received the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with David H. Hubel and Tosten N. Wiesel.
Hamilton Othanel Smith (born August 23, 1931) is an American microbiologist and Nobel laureate.

Smith was born on August 23, 1931, and graduated from University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but in 1950 transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his B.A. in Mathematics in 1952 He received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1956.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978 for discovering type II restriction enzymes with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans as co-recipients.

He later became a leading figure in the nascent field of genomics, when in 1995 he and a team at The Institute for Genomic Research sequenced the first bacterial genome, that of Haemophilus influenzae. H. influenza was the same organism in which Smith had discovered restriction enzymes in the late 1960s. He subsequently played a key role in the sequencing of many of the early genomes at The Institute for Genomic Research, and in the sequencing of the human genome at Celera Genomics, which he joined when it was founded in 1998.

He currently directs a team at the J. Craig Venter Institute that works towards creating a synthetic bacterium, Mycoplasma laboratorium. In 2003 the same group had synthetically assembled the genome of a virus, Phi X 174 bacteriophage.


  • Raju, T N (1999). "The Nobel chronicles. 1978: Werner Arber (b 1929); Hamilton O Smith (b 1931); Daniel Nathans (b 1928)". Lancet 354 (9189): 1567.
  • Shampo, M A; Kyle R A (1995). "Hamilton Smith--Nobel Prize winner in medicine or physiology". Mayo Clin. Proc. 70 (6): 540.
  • Smith, H O; Wilcox K W (1992). "A restriction enzyme from Hemophilus influenzae. I. Purification and general properties. 1970". Biotechnology 24 38–50.
  • Berg, K (1978). "[The Nobel prize in physiology and medicine 1978. Nobel prize to a controversial research field]". Tidsskr. Nor. Laegeforen. 98 (34-36): 1741–2.
  • , (1978). "Molecular genetics takes Nobel Prize". JAMA 240 (20): 2137–8.
  • (1978). "The Nobel prizewinners 1978: medicine. From modest beginnings.". Nature 275 (5682): 689–90.
  • Lagerkvist, U (1978). "[To split a gene]". Lakartidningen 75 (43): 3892–4.

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