Alexander Rich
Born(1924-11-15)15 November 1924
Died27 April 2015(2015-04-27) (aged 90)
Alma materHarvard University
Known fordiscovery of polysomes and Z-DNA
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts 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 has over 600 publications to his name.[1]

Born in Hartford, Connecticut,[2] Rich was the founder of Alkermes and was a director beginning in 1987. Rich was co-chairman of the board of directors of Repligen, a biopharmaceutical company. He also served on the editorial board of Genomics and the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics.

Personal life

Rich spent his early life in Springfield, Massachusetts.[3] 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.[4]

He obtained a bachelor's in biochemical sciences from Harvard University in 1947 and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1949.[4] Rich died on 27 April 2015, aged 90.[5]

Academic career

At Harvard, Rich studied with John Edsall, who inspired him to pursue an academic career.[3] In 1949, he moved to the California Institute of Technology to perform postdoctoral research with Linus Pauling.[4] He met James Watson during his time in Pauling's lab.[6] 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.[3][4] He spent a sabbatical at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge (1955-1956), where he worked with Francis Crick and solved the structure of collagen.[7] He became a professor at MIT in 1958. He worked diligently at MIT until his death in 2015.[4] He still went into lab until two months before his death.[4]

Contributions to science

His work played a pivotal role in the discovery of nucleic acid hybridization.[3][8]

In 1955, Rich and Crick solved the structure of collagen.[7]

In 1963, Rich discovered polysomes: clusters of ribosomes which read one strand of mRNA simultaneously.[9]

From 1969 to 1980, he was a biology investigator looking for life on mars with NASA's Viking Mission to Mars.[10]

In 1973, Rich's lab determined the structure of tRNA.[11]

In 1979, Rich and co-workers at MIT grew a crystal of Z-DNA.[12] 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.[13] Whenever Z-DNA forms, there must be two junction boxes that allow the flip back to the canonical B-form of DNA.

List of awards and prizes received

Awards and prizes



  1. ^ Schimmel, Paul (2015). "Alexander Rich (1924–2015) Biologist who discovered ribosome clusters and 'left-handed' DNA". Nature. 521 (7552): 291. Bibcode:2015Natur.521..291S. doi:10.1038/521291a. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 25993953. S2CID 205085052.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d "Alexander Rich, the importance of RNA and the development of nucleic acid hybridization". MIT Department of Biology. 31 May 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Alexander Rich dies at 90". MIT News. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  5. ^ Trafton A (2015). "Alexander Rich dies at 90".
  6. ^ "Alex Rich". Cold Spring Harbor Oral History. 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b Rich, Alexander; Crick, F. H. C. (12 November 1955). "The Structure of Collagen". Nature. 176 (4489): 915–916. Bibcode:1955Natur.176..915R. doi:10.1038/176915a0. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 13272717. S2CID 9611917.
  8. ^ "Gobind Khorana and the rise of molecular biology". MIT Department of Biology. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  9. ^ Warner JR, Knopf PM, Rich A (1963). "A Multiple Ribosomal Structure in Protein Synthesis". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 49 (1): 122–129. Bibcode:1963PNAS...49..122W. doi:10.1073/pnas.49.1.122. PMC 300639. PMID 13998950.
  10. ^ "ch7". Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  11. ^ Perrigue, Patrick M.; Erdmann, Volker A.; Barciszewski, Jan (1 October 2015). "Alexander Rich: In Memoriam". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 40 (11): 623–624. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2015.08.009. PMID 26439533.
  12. ^ Wang AH, Quigley GJ, Kolpak FJ, Crawford JL, van Boom JH, Van der Marel G, Rich A (1979). "Molecular structure of a left-handed double helical DNA fragment at atomic resolution". Nature. 282 (5740): 680–686. Bibcode:1979Natur.282..680W. doi:10.1038/282680a0. PMID 514347. S2CID 4337955.
  13. ^ Ha SC, Lowenhaupt K, Rich A, Kim YG, Kim KK (2005). "Crystal structure of a junction between B-DNA and Z-DNA reveals two extruded bases". Nature. 437 (7062): 1183–1186. Bibcode:2005Natur.437.1183H. doi:10.1038/nature04088. PMID 16237447. S2CID 2539819.
  14. ^ "2008 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient". The Welch Foundation. Archived from the original on 19 October 2008.

Selected publications