Recorded: 20 Aug 2006
There was a meeting on the chemical basis of heredity at Johns Hopkins. This was 1957, I think. And at that meeting I presented this work. And at the end, a, this man in a tweed coat, a tweed jacket, came up after the lecture, spoke to me in an English accent, and said, “Dr. Rich, I want to congratulate you. You’ve discovered molecular sex.” Ahh… I thought about it and it seemed not unreasonable description. And this was Julian Huxley, who was a very distinguished science writer of the period. And ah, described the reaction in that format.
MP: Let’s just…I’m going to change the tape and we will go to the next discovery.
MP: Year… we’re talking about the next, not the next discovery, but in 1960.
Alexander Rich (b. 1924), biologist and biophysicist, is the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics and Biochemistry, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Biology. Rich first joined the MIT faculty in 1958. Subsequent to serving in the U.S. Navy from 1943-1946, Rich earned his undergraduate degree (A.B., magna cum laude, 1947) and medical degree (M.D., cum laude, 1949) from Harvard University. While doing his postdoctoral work at Caltech under Linus Pauling, Rich met Jim Watson and they began their collaboration on the structure of RNA. From 1969-1980 he was an investigator in NASA's Viking Mission to Mars, the project which designed experiments to determine if there is life on Mars.
Alex Rich's most well-known scientific discoveries are left-handed DNA, or Z-DNA, and the three-dimensional structure of transfer RNA. He has been elected to the the National Academy of Sciences (1970), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the French Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (the Vatican.) Among other awards and honorary degrees he has received are the Medal of Science granted by President Clinton in 1995, the Rosentiel Award in Basic Biomedical Research, and the Presidential Award of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Since the 1980s Alex Rich has been actively involved in number of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He co-founded the pharmaceutical company Alkermes Inc. in 1987 and currently serves as a director. He is also Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Repligen Corporation, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Roseta Genomics, and a member of the Board of Directors for Profectus Biosciences, Inc.