A lively and productive meeting on The History of Restriction Enzymes was held October 19-21, 2013, at Grace Auditorium, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). This international meeting was organized by Herb Boyer, Stu Linn, Rich Roberts, and Mila Pollock. Herb Boyer is a restriction enzyme and recombinant DNA pioneer and co-founder of Genentech; Stu Linn is a restriction enzyme pioneer and professor at the University of California Berkeley; Rich Roberts is a restriction enzyme and gene splicing pioneer, Nobel laureate, and chief scientific officer of New England BioLabs; and Mila Pollock is the executive director of the CSHL Library and Archives. This was the fifth international meeting on the history of science co-organized by the CSHL Library and Archives. It was the first to bring together the scientists who were involved with the discoveries and research on restriction enzymes dating back to the 1950s and covering developments to the present time.
The meeting was attended by more than 150 scientists, history of science scholars/authors, educators, students, and members of the CSHL community. It included sessions on:
Discovered in 1970, restriction enzymes are enzymes that cleave DNA at specific recognition sites, and have many uses in molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology. More than 4,000 restriction enzymes are known today, of which more than 621 are commercially available.
The 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Werner Arber, Dan Nathans and Hamilton Smith for the discovery of "restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics." Werner Arber and Hamilton Smith both participated in the CSHL meeting. (Dan Nathans passed away in 1999.)