Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Sidney Altman, Who Stumbled on a Breakthrough in Genetics, Dies at 82

Sidney Altman was born on May 7, 1939, in Montreal, the second son of Victor and Ray (Arlin) Altman. His mother was a textile worker; his father ran a grocery store.

The family had little money, but Dr. Altman, in an autobiographical sketch for the Nobel Institute, credited his parents with setting a good example that stayed with him for the rest of his life. “It was from them,” he wrote, “that I learned that hard work in stable surroundings could yield rewards, even if only in infinitesimally small increments.”

Dr. Altman became fascinated by science as a boy — first by news of the detonation of the first atomic bomb, when he was 6 years old, and then by seeing the periodic table of the elements, which, he wrote, gave him a sense of “the elegance of scientific theory and its predictive power.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

He had intended to enroll at McGill University in his hometown, but he changed course when he was accepted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studied physics at M.I.T., but in his final semester, out of curiosity, he took an introductory course in molecular biology and found it compelling.

After M.I.T., he spent 18 months in a graduate physics program at Columbia University, but he said he was not really happy there. He wanted to be an experimental scientist and there was no opportunity at Columbia, so he quit and went back to Canada.

The next summer, he was offered a job writing about science for an institute in Boulder, where he could also take summer courses.

One night he wound up at a party talking to George Gamow, a well-known physicist, cosmologist and writer. Dr. Altman explained that he was dissatisfied with physics but fascinated with biophysics. Dr. Gamow suggested that he go to the University of Colorado in Denver, which had a good biophysics department.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like


Disturbing footage released by the New York Police Department (NYPD) shows an alleged shoplifter wielding a hammer at an elderly laundromat employee who was attempting...


Four Memphis firefighters were transported to the hospital in critical condition Wednesday night following a vehicular crash that left one other person injured, according...


Hollywood actor Steven Seagal visited eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region on Tuesday to film a documentary about the current war taking place there between Moscow...


A murder suspect has been charged with fatally shooting a Texas man who approached him about breaking into his car – all while he...