Frederick Sanger and his Double Nobel

Frederick_Sanger2Frederick Sanger, the only British scientist, and the only chemist, to be awarded two Nobel prizes, has died at the age of 95.

Sanger, an alumnus of St. John’s College, Cambridge who spent his career at the university, is in illustrious company. Only three other individuals have won two Nobel prizes: Marie Curie (for Physics and then Chemistry), Linus Pauling (for Peace and for Chemistry), and the American physicist John Bardeen.

Sanger won his first Nobel in 1958 for work on sequencing amino acids in Insulin, and the second in 1980 for work on the sequencing of DNA. In 1992 the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute was opened at Hinxton, nine miles south of Cambridge, and named in his honour; it now has over 900 employees, and has been instrumental in gene sequencing.

There is an obituary on the Guardian site, here. And here, on the BBC site, in an interview half way down the page, Professor Sir John Walker, also of Cambridge University, remarks on Sanger’s extraordinary patience, stretching sometimes to many years, with certain experiments.


Cambridge has been at the forefront of the science of genetics since Francis Crick and James Watson demonstrated the structure of DNA in the front room at the Eagle.

Crick and Watson favoured the Eagle because of its proximity to the old Cavandish Laboratories on Free School Lane, but in the early 1960s, they, Sanger and others were drawn to work at the Medical Research Council’s new Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where Sanger’s work leading to his second Nobel prize was largely carried out.

The LMB has recently had a facelift, with a new building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus just to the south of Cambridge, next to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Needless to say, one of its four seminar rooms is named after Sanger.