Recorded: 09 Apr 2001
I was with Sydney [Brenner] for a little over three years in Cambridge, England. Working with Sydney was also a very interesting, very stimulating experience. Sydney is exceedingly bright and quite outspoken and has very broad knowledge of biology and many other things. He also—at least at that point (I don’t know now because I haven’t been as close to him)—as far as I could tell didn’t sleep. So the biggest danger in working at the MRC Laboratory where Sydney was in Cambridge was if you had a project that was going late into the night and you felt you wanted a cup of coffee or a cup of tea and you went into the tea room at two AM, the danger was that Sydney would decide this was a good time to talk. And he would just wander in, because, of course, there was no one else to talk to at that point. And he’d be happy to chat until about five o’clock in the morning and then he’d be back at his desk by eight. So it was stimulating.
H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.
Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."
Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.