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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 79
October 30, 1928-November 16, 1999
BY DANIEL DIMAIO
DANIEL NATHANS, A SCIENTIST whose pioneering use of restriction endonucleases revolutionized virology and genetics and whose personal qualities had a profound impact on those who knew him, passed away in November 1999 at the age of 71. He was the University Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty for 37 years, and a senior investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1982. Dan is survived by his wife, Joanne; three sons, Eli, Jeremy, and Benjamin; and seven grandchildren.
Dan was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, the youngest of eight children of Russian Jewish immigrants. He attended the University of Delaware, initially living at home and commuting by hitchhiking, and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1950. He then entered medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, largely because, he claimed, his father saw him “as the last chance to have a doctor in the family.” Dan began medical school with the intention of returning to Wilmington as a general practitioner, but a summer job in a local hospital bored him and made him rethink these plans and return early to St. Louis for a research position in Oliver Lowry’s laboratory. While at