American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
Arthur Kornberg
1991 AACC Lectureship Award

Arthur Kornberg is the recipient of this year’s AACC National Lectureship Award, sponsored by the Diagnostic Systems Division, Technicon Instruments Corporation.

Arthur Kornberg was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1918 and was educated in the New York public school system. He received his undergraduate degree in science from the City College of New York in 1937, and an M.D. from the University of Rochester in 1941. After a one-year internship in internal medicine, he served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. He was first assigned to the Navy as a ship’s doctor, and then as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, from 1942 to 1953. He obtained training in enzymology with Professor Severo Ochoa at the New York University School of Medicine in 1946 and with Professor Carl Cori at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, in 1947.

Upon returning to NIH, he organized and directed the Enzyme Section. He resigned in 1953 with the rank of Medical Director to become chairman of the Department of Microbiology of Washington University School of Medicine. In 1959, he organized the Department of Biochemistry of the Stanford University School of Medicine, serving as its chairman until 1969, and thereafter as professor. He accepted the title of Professor Emeritus in 1988 and remains on active status.

From his early studies of the mechanisms of the enzymatic synthesis of coenzymes (e.g., NADH, NADPH, FAD) and inorganic pyrephosphate, he expanded his interest to the biosynthesis of the nucleic acids, particularly DNA. After elucidating key steps in the pathways of pyritnidine and purine nucleotide synthesis, including the discovery of PRPP as an intermediate, he found the enzyme that assembles the building blocks into DNA, DNA polymerase. This ubiquitous class of enzymes makes genetically precise DNA and is essential in the replication, repair, and rearrangement of DNA. Many other enzymes of DNA metabolism were discovered that are responsible for the start as well as the elongation of DNA chains. In recent years, enzyme systems were discovered that initiate and terminate the replication of a chromosome, crucial events in the life cycle of a cell. Although research has been Dr. Kornberg’s primary pursuit, he also teaches graduate, medical, and postdoctoral students, and has written major monographs: DNA Synthesis in 1974, DNA Replication in 1980, Supplement to DNA Replication in 1982, and DNA Replication, second edition, in 1991. A scientific autobiography, For the Love of Enzymes: the Odyssey of a Biochemist, was published by Harvard University Press in 1989.

In his academic career, he has served as department chairman, on committees of the Medical School and University, as President of the American Society of Biological Chemistry (1965), and on the advisory boards and councils of numerous university, governmental, and industrial research institutes. He is currently on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the DNAX Research Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology and of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and on the Board of Directors of Xoma Corporation. Among his honors are memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, and the American Philosophical Society; a number of honorary degrees; the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1959); the National Medal of Science (1979); and other medals and awards.