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H. Robert Horvitz

Date of birth : 1947-05-08
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Chicago, IL
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-09-21

H. Robert Horvitz is an American biologist best known for his research on the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. He is currently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is Professor of Biology and a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In ninth grade H. Robert Horvitz commandeered his family's spare bathroom to breed Drosophila (fruit flies), replicating Gregor Mendel's experiments into heredity for a high school science project. During his college years he worked for IBM every summer -- the first year as an office flunky, but thereafter as a programmer and teaching programmers. He majored in mathematics and economics at MIT, where he edited the school paper and was elected student body president.

In the 1970s, studying cell death (apoptosis), Horvitz showed that in many cases cell death is not brought on by damage or disease, but because the cell has enacted an endogenous procedure of suicide. Normal, healthy cells sometimes trigger their own deaths, and Horvitz showed that this is a normal process, necessary for removing unnecessary or damaged cells. Along with Sydney Brenner and John E. Sulston, Horvitz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2002.

His wife, Martha Constantine-Paton, is a biology professor at MIT. His sister, Carol Horvitz, is a biology professor at the University of Miami in Florida.

Awards and honors:

Nobel Prize for Medicine 2002 (with Sydney Brenner and John E. Sulston)
National Academy of Sciences
IBM Summer worker, Chicago offices (1964-68)
Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (1988-)
Science Debate 2008


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