|Born||15 November 1924|
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||27 April 2015 (aged 90)|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Known for||discoverer of polysomes and Z-DNA|
|Institutions||Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
Alexander Rich (15 November 1924 – 27 April 2015) was an American biologist and biophysicist. He was the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at MIT (since 1958) and Harvard Medical School. Rich earned an A.B. (magna cum laude) and an M.D. (cum laude) from Harvard University. He was a post-doc of Linus Pauling. During this time he was a member of the RNA Tie Club, a social and discussion group which attacked the question of how DNA encodes proteins. He had over 600 publications to his name.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Rich was the founder of Alkermes and was a director beginning in 1987. Dr. Rich was co-chairman of the board of directors of Repligen Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company. He also served on the editorial board of Genomics and the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics.
Rich spent his early life in Springfield, Massachusetts. He grew up in a working-class family and worked in the U.S. Armory while he was in high school. From 1943 to 1946, Rich was in the U.S. Navy.
He obtained a bachelor's in biochemical sciences from Harvard University in 1947 and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1949. Rich died on 27 April 2015, aged 90.
At Harvard, Rich studied with John Edsall, who inspired him to pursue an academic career. In 1949, he moved to the California Institute of Technology to perform postdoctoral research with Linus Pauling. He met James Watson during his time in Pauling's lab. He stayed in Pauling's group until 1954. Rich worked as a section chief in physical chemistry at the National Institutes of Health from 1954 to 1958. He spent a sabbatical at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge (1955-1956), where he worked with Francis Crick and solved the structure of collagen. He became a professor at MIT in 1958. He worked diligently at MIT until his death in 2015. He still went into lab until two months before his death.
His work played a pivotal role in the discovery of nucleic acid hybridization.
In 1955, Rich and Crick solved the structure of collagen.
In 1963, Rich discovered polysomes: clusters of ribosomes which read one strand of mRNA simultaneously.
From 1969 to 1980, he was a biology investigator looking for life on mars with NASA's Viking Mission to Mars.
In 1973, Rich's lab determined the structure of tRNA.
In 1979, Rich and co-workers at MIT grew a crystal of Z-DNA. After 26 years of attempts, Rich et al. finally crystallised the junction box of B- and Z-DNA. Their results were published in an October 2005 Nature journal. Whenever Z-DNA forms, there must be two junction boxes that allow the flip back to the canonical B-form of DNA.
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