The Minkowski who found the role of pancreas in diabetes and COBBLER'S son, who led a the light for microbiology
Posted January 12th, 2014
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Oskar Minkowski (13 January 1858 – 18 July 1931) held a professorship at the University of Breslau and is most famous for his research on diabetes. He is the brother of the mathematician Hermann Minkowski and father of astrophysicist Rudolph Minkowski. In recognition of the discovery by Minkowski the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annually awards the Minkowski Prize for outstanding original work of a younger investigator in diabetes research.


Minkowski worked with Josef von Mering on the study of diabetes at the University of Strasbourg. Their landmark study in 1889 in dogs induced diabetes by removing their pancreas. It was Minkowski who performed the operation and made the crucial link to recognize that the symptoms of the treated dogs were due to diabetes. Thus they were able to indicate that the pancreas contained regulators to control blood sugar; they also provided model for the study of diabetes. Their work led other doctors and scientists to pursue further research on the relation of the pancreas to diabetes, and ultimately resulted in the discovery of insulin as a treatment for the disease.


Sydney Brenner, CH FRS (born 13 January 1927) is a South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate. Brenner made significant contributions to work on the genetic code, and other areas of molecular biologywhile working in the Medical Research Council Unit in Cambridge, England. He established the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for the investigation of developmental biology, and founded the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, California, U.S..



Brenner was born in the small town of Germiston, South Africa. His parents, Lena (Blacher) and Morris Brenner, were Jewish immigrants. His father, a cobbler, came to South Africa from Lithuania in 1910, and his mother, from Riga, Latvia, in 1922. Educated at Germiston High School and the University of the Witwatersrand, he received an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 which enabled him to complete a D.Phil. from Exeter College, Oxford. He then spent the next 20 years at the Medical Research Council Unit in Cambridge; here, during the 1960s, he contributed to molecular biology, then an emerging field. He was one of the first people in April 1953 to see the model of the structure of DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson. Brenner made several seminal contributions to the emerging field of molecular biology in the 1960s. Thefirst was proving that all overlapping genetic coding sequences were impossible.


This led Francis Crick to propose the concept of the adaptor or as it is now known "transfer RNA (tRNA)"Brenner proposed the concept of a messenger RNA, based on correctly interpreting the work of Elliot "Ken" Volkin and Larry Astrachan. Then, with Francis Crick, Leslie Barnett and Richard J. Watts-Tobin, Brenner genetically demonstrated the triplet nature of the code of protein translation which discovered frameshift mutations. This insight provided early elucidation of the nature of the genetic code. Brenner, with George Pieczenik, created the first computer matrix analysis of nucleic acids using TRAC, which Brenner continues to use.


Crick, Brenner, Klug and Pieczenik returned to their early work on deciphering the genetic code with a pioneering paper on the origin of protein synthesis. This is the only published paper in scientific history with three independent Nobel laureates collaborating as authors. The title of his Nobel lecture on December 2002, "Nature's Gift to Science," is a homage to this modest nematode. Known for his penetrating scientific insight and acerbic wit, Brenner, for many years, penned a regular column ("Loose Ends") in the journal Current Biology. This column was so popular that "Loose ends from Current Biology", a compilation, was published in 1997 by Current Biology Ltd.,(ISBN 1 85922 325 7) and is now a collectors' item. Brenner is also noted for his generosity of ideas and the great number of students and colleagues his ideas have stimulated.


Brenner was awarded the National Science and Technology Medal by A*STAR, Singapore on 11 October 2006 for his distinguished and strategic contributions to the development of Singapore’s scientific capability and culture, particularly in the biomedical sciences sector. In 2008, Sydney Brenner gave his alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in South Africa the privilege of using his name for their new 21st Century research institute. The Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) is located within a medical and health precinct in Parktown, Johannesburg.

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