Francois Jacob life and biography

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Francois Jacob biography

Date of birth : 1920-06-17
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Nancy, France
Nationality : French
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-20
Credited as : Biologist, Operon theory of genetic control, Nobel laureate

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François Jacob (born June 17, 1920 in Nancy) is a French biologist who, together with Jacques Monod, originated the idea that control of enzyme levels in all cells occurs through feedback on transcription. He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Jacques Monod and André Lwoff.

Jewish by heredity and upbringing, François Jacob announced shortly after his bar mitzvah that he was an atheist. As World War II swept Europe, he abandoned medical school and worked with the French resistance in London.

He later joined the French Army, serving as a medical officer in combat at Fezzan, Libya, Tripolitania, Tunisia, and at the battle of Normandy, where his hands were severely injured. He was given France's highest WWII honor, the Croix de la Libération.

Jacob's injuries precluded his planned career as a surgeon, and he instead became a research biologist. Jacob and Jacques Monod were the first scientists to propose the operon theory, which describes how the E. coli bacterium represses production of enzymes involved in lactose metabolism when lactose is not available.

Jacob and Monod extended this repressor model to all genes in all organisms in their initial exuberance. The regulation of gene activity has developed into a very large sub-discipline of molecular biology, and in truth exhibits enormous variety in mechanism and many levels of complexity. Current researchers find regulatory events at every conceivable level of the processes that express genetic information. In the relatively simple genome of baker's yeast, (saccharomyces cerevisiae), 405 of its 6,419 protein-encoding genes are directly involved in transcriptional control, compared to 1,938 that are enzymes.

For his investigation of cell physiology and gene structure, Jacob was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1965, sharing the honor with his colleagues Monod and André Lwoff.

Awards and recognition:
- the Gran Prix Charles-Leopold Mayer by the Académie des Sciences in 1962.
- together with André Lwoff and Jacques Monod, the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
- received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996.
- elected a member of the Académie française in 1996.

Author of books:
-Sexuality and the Genetics of Bacteria (1961, with Elie Wollmann)
-The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity (1974)
-The Possible & The Actual (1982)
-The Statue Within: An Autobiography (1987)
-Of Flies, Mice and Men (1998)
-Le Siècle du Gène (2003, with Stéphane Schmitt)

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