Steitz, Thomas Arthur

Steitz, Thomas Arthur, 1940–2018, American biophysicist and biochemist, b. Milwaukee, Ph.D. Harvard, 1966. Steitz was a professor at Yale from 1970 and a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1986, holding both posts until his death. He was a co-recipient with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Ada Yonath of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their studies demonstrating the structure and function of the ribosome, a large and complex cell molecule that translates the information encoded in DNA into protein sequences (see cell, in biology; nucleic acid). The researchers, working independently, used X-ray crystallography to map the position of each of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome, and they developed three-dimensional models showing how various antibiotics bind to the ribosome. Their work made fundamental contributions to the scientific understanding of life and to the development of antibiotics, many of which work by interfering with the functioning of bacterial ribosomes.

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