Mahlon Hoagland on Working with Francis Crick
  Mahlon Hoagland     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Jun 2006

Crick was not a laboratory man, you could say that first. He, without question, in my mind is the most brilliant theoretician in biology, was the most brilliant theoretician in biology. He was an enormously articulate man. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and to be with day in and day out for a year. We tried originally to do some experiments together. We hoped that we might be able to identify and fractionate some of the transfer RNA to find out a particular transfer RNA molecule that reacted with a particular amino acid. And it would have been very exciting if we had been able to find something like that, but we didn’t.

A day came in the laboratory when I came in a little late and Francis was there already starting an experiment and we were both working with rats, in particular rat livers, a source of biological material and he was down oddly on his hands and knees in the laboratory under a bench trying to catch a rat that had gotten away from him. That was the last day he did any experiments in biology. But we spent a very wonderful year anyway.

Mahlon Hoagland, a molecular biologist who was one of the discoverer of the transfer ribonucleic acid - tRNA. He received a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1948. He served as a doctor during the Second World War. When the War ended he returned to Harvard and became researcher in the Huntington Laboratories at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He worked in the bacteriology and immunology department of Harvard Medical School from 1952 till 1967.

Working together with Paul Zamecnik and Elizabeth Keller he discovered the initial steps of protein synthesis. Two years later in 1958 Hoagland and Zemecnik discovered tRNA. His main input to the laboratory was in his work with amino acid activating enzymes. He noticed that certain enzymes were required to activate amino acids so they could combine with tRNA molecules and eventually be incorporated into new protein molecules. These enzymes were named aminoacyl tRNA synthetases.

In 1957 Hoagland moved to Cambridge where he worked for a year with Crick at Cambridge University. Working together they tried to explain the genetic code. He was Associate Professor of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School and in 1967 was appointed professor in the biochemistry department at the Dartmouth Medical School. After 3 years he left Dartmouth and became Director and President of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts. He retired in 1985.

Mahlon Hoagland was awarded the Franklin Medal for life science. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the US National Academy of Sciences. He died on September 19, 2009.

More Information: Wikipedia