Peter Geiduschek has made seminal contributions to our understanding of DNA structure and gene expression. In the decade marked by the discovery of the double helix, Peter began a series of decisive studies that identified the forces contributing to the stability of DNA duplexes and the reversibility of the process of DNA denaturation. He was among the first scientists to develop systems for the study of transcription in vitro. His early studies in this area, which were in collaboration with Samuel Weiss, include the conclusive demonstration that RNA synthesized in vitro is entirely and faithfully complementary to the DNA template sequence. He then carried out precise and elegant biochemical studies elucidating the roles of proteins required for gene expression in bacterial viruses and in eukaryotic cells. His studies have provided key insights into the molecular mechanisms by which viruses take over the host synthetic machinery, and by which they control the timing of gene expression to ensure efficient multiplication. It can be said quite fairly that his scientific career is the embodiment of artistry, imagination and elegance.
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Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Section of Molecular Biology, UC San Diego
E. Peter Geiduschek has led a legendary career as a researcher and professor. Born in Austria and finding asylum from Nazi persecution in England during the war, Peter immigrated to the US in 1945, where he rapidly earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Columbia University and a Ph.D. with Paul Doty in physical chemistry at Harvard University. His early career focused on DNA structure at Yale University and during his military service at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. At Yale, in collaboration with Julian Sturtevant, he conducted the first thermochemical experiments on DNA denaturation. After a brief stay at the University of Michigan, Peter joined the faculty at the University of Chicago Committee on Biophysics, where he made fundamental discoveries in synthesis of RNA and regulation of gene expression in bacteriophage. Important collaborators and colleagues during this highly productive period were Sam Weiss (studies of RNA polymerase) and Dick Epstein (phage genetics).
Peter was recruited to UC San Diego in 1970, where he has remained since. Among the many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows Peter has trained, several have become leaders in diverse fields. His research has dealt primarily with the enzymology of transcription and transcriptional gene regulation, in phage-infected bacteria (temporal programs of transcription and the sliding clamp model linking DNA replication to transcriptional regulation), eukaryotes (analysis of transcriptional initiation by RNA polymerase III), and archaea (transcriptional mosaics of prokaryotes and eukaryotes). Peter has also been a highly committed teacher and university citizen.
Peter is currently a Research Professor and has received numerous awards and honors for his research, including the Harvard University Paul Doty Lecture (1993), the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (1997), the University of Geneva's Jean Weigle Lecture (2001), and the Gregor J. Mendel Medal from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (2004). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and is also a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.