Werner Arber on Bacteriophage P1
  Werner Arber     Biography    
Recorded: 08 May 2012

Yes, well you know I was—I mentioned I was one year post-doc in University of Southern California, did some work with bacteriophage P1, which had been isolated by Joe Bertani in his lab. And Joe Bertani, he was really fantastic. We had daily contacts with debates, and after this year I wrote two papers on bacteriophage transposition. And in the draft I put my name, and then Joe Bertani’s name, gave it to him to read and make some changes, corrections, and then after a few days he came back. “Oh, that looks good.” But I should be the only author, although he had contributed all the material, all the background knowledge through many discussions with me. This is really something which at that moment I appreciated, but you know, from today’s point of view, there are so many scientists which accumulate hundreds of papers in which they just contributed very little things, that hasn’t happened with Joe Bertani.

Post-Doc Work with Luria, and the Lederbergs In California, in USC, I got offers from three places to do additional post-doctoral time. That was in 1959. One was Esther and Joshua Lederberg in Stanford, Gunther Stent in Berkeley, and Salva Luria in MIT. And as a compromise I spent several weeks at each of these three places.

Werner Arber, (born June 3, 1929, Gränichen, Switz.), Swiss microbiologist, corecipient with Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Othanel Smith of the United States of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for 1978. All three were cited for their work in molecular genetics, specifically the discovery and application of enzymes that break the giant molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into manageable pieces, small enough to be separated for individual study but large enough to retain bits of the genetic information inherent in the sequence of units that make up the original substance. Arber studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, the University of Geneva, and the University of Southern California. He served on the faculty at Geneva from 1960 to 1970, when he became professor of microbiology at the University of Basel. During the late 1950s and early ’60s Arber and several others extended the work of an earlier Nobel laureate, Salvador Luria, who had observed that bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) not only induce hereditary mutations in their bacterial hosts but at the same time undergo hereditary mutations themselves. Arber’s research was concentrated on the action of protective enzymes present in the bacteria, which modify the DNA of the infecting virus—e.g., the restriction enzyme, so-called for its ability to restrict the growth of the bacteriophage by cutting the molecule of its DNA to pieces.