David Baltimore Biography

Hamilton Othanel Smith, an American microbiologist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1978 for his groundbreaking discovery of ‘restriction enzymes’. These enzymes, which he shared with Werner Arber from Switzerland and Daniel Nathans from America, revolutionized the study of DNA by allowing it to be divided into smaller, more manageable pieces. Smith’s specific contribution was the identification of a new type of enzyme that could recognize and cut DNA molecules at specific points, paving the way for further advancements in genetics and microbiology. This breakthrough was made while studying the ‘Haemophilus influenzae’ bacteria, where Smith and his colleagues discovered the second type of ‘restriction enzymes’ that cut DNA precisely at the recognition point.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Hamilton Othanel Smith
  • Age: 92 Years, 92 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Anne Bolton
    • Father: Bunnie Othanel Smith
    • Mother: Tommie Naomi Harkey
  • Biologists
  • Microbiologists
  • City: New York City
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • More Facts
  • Education: University of California, Berkeley, (BA), Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, (MD)
  • Awards: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978

Childhood & Early Life

Daniel O. Smith was born on August 23, 1931 in New York, USA. His father, Bunnie Othanel Smith, was an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Florida at Gainesville, and his mother, Tommie Naomi Harkey, was a school teacher. He has an elder brother named Norman. Both his parents were from simple backgrounds. His family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois when his father joined the Department of Education at the University of Illinois. Smith spent his entire boyhood at Champagne-Urbana which was relatively detached from general affairs like the Great Depression and the World War II. He attended the University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois where most of the students were very talented and drawn from the families belonging to the university faculty. He completed high school in three years with help from his teachers.


After high school, Smith matriculated with mathematics as a major subject from the University of Illinois but was undecided about his further studies. He started studying the central nervous system when his brother introduced him to a book written by a biophysicist, Rashevsky, related to its mathematical modeling. He joined the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 where he developed an interest in biochemistry, biology, and cell physiology. Smith graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. After deciding on a medical career, he applied to the John Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland and joined the institute in 1952. In 1956, he earned his M.D. from John Hopkins University and proceeded to the Barnes Hospital in St. Louis for his medical internship.


Smith joined the Navy when he was drafted into the Armed Forces in July 1957 and completed a two-year stint in San Diego, California. It was during this time that he developed an interest in genetics. In 1959, he moved to Detroit, Michigan with his wife and one-year-old son and joined the Henry Ford Hospital to complete his medical residency training. It was here that he found his calling when he came across books on bacteriophage and molecular biology. After getting a N.I.H. postdoctoral fellowship, he joined the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1962. He started to work on the Salmonella Phage P22 lysogeny with another geneticist. In 1965, they discovered the gene which controlled the prophage attachment and by 1967, Smith was able to publish his findings. He returned to John Hopkins in 1967 where he joined the Department of Microbiology as an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and has been there ever since. He made significant discoveries in the field of microbiology, including the discovery of the first type-II restriction enzyme that could break up the DNA molecule at particular points. In 1995, he successfully sequenced the genome of the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria at The Institute for Genomics Research.

Later Life

Smith left John Hopkins in 1998 and joined Celara Genomics Corporation, where he helped in the efforts being made for genomic sequencing in fruit flies and human beings. He became the scientific director of the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives in 2002, where his research focused on the production of a synthetic organism with a single cell that could survive and reproduce on its own. In 2006, Smith became the head of the synthetic biology and biological energy research group of the J. Craig Venter Institute. He is currently holding the post of scientific director at privately owned Synthetic Genomics and is busy with research on bio-fuels.

Personal Life & Legacy

Hamilton O. Smith married Elizabeth Anne Bolton, a nursing student from Mexico City, in 1956. They have four sons and a daughter from the marriage. In his spare time, Smith loves to play the piano and listen to classical music.

Awards & Achievements

Hamilton Smith received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978 for his discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics.

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