Hamilton Smith on Rich Roberts
  Hamilton Smith     Biography    
Recorded: 03 Mar 2006

Yeah, Rich I knew very well, of course, over the years, because he became the key person in restriction, really doing more in that area. I kind of let it go, I just went on to some other things. But Rich really brought it to where we are today, you know, in terms of just having the enzymes and everything. And of course then Rich—you know, and we were so parallel in a lot of our things. When I came back from my sabbatical in Zurich, Switzerland in 1976, I had dashed off a very quick little paper with Max Birnstiel in which we showed how you could map all the sites in a fragment simultaneously by doing partial cleavages and using end-labeling. It was sort of a take-off on the Max and Gilbert sequencing, except you were using restriction cuts to locate specific points. Anyway, so, we had dashed this – I wrote this thing two days just before I left. And in fact, this is – you can go look this paper up, it was in Nucleic Acids Research, 1976 – there were places in the procedures and materials section where I said hhaI restriction enzyme, parentheses, question mark, units, because I thought Max would fill in the right number, because I was just writing this thing very quickly. And it went into press that way. It was published with all that stuff in it. Can you believe that? I mean it was still a very good paper, but there was some little things like that that were not caught. Like I guess he assumed that the manufacturer knew what the units were, not that it made any difference at all, but…The reason I bring up this paper was that just as the paper had been sent off to press, Rich called me up and said he had a new way of mapping restriction sites and he described it to me and I said, oh, yes, we just wrote that up and I’ll send you a copy. So I sent it to him a

Hamilton Smith is a U.S. microbiologist born Aug. 23, 1931, New York, N.Y. Smith received an A.B. degree in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952 and the M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1956. After six years of clinical work in medicine (1956-1962), he carried out research on Salmonella phage P22 lysogeny at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1962-1967). In 1967, he joined the Microbiology Department at Johns Hopkins.

In 1968, he discovered the first TypeII restriction enzyme (HindII) and determined the sequence of its cleavage site. In, 1978 he was a co-recipient (with D. Nathans and W. Arber) of the Nobel in Medicine for this discovery.

He is currently the Scientific Director Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy Distinguished Professor at the J. Craig Venture Institute in Rockville, Maryland.