Maxine Singer

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Maxine Frank Singer
Nci-vol-8248-300 maxine singer.jpg
Born (1931-02-15) 15 February 1931 (age 92)
New York City
Citizenship USA
Fields Molecular Biology Biochemistry
Alma mater Swarthmore College (A.B.) (1952) Yale University (Ph.D) (1957)
Doctoral advisor Joseph Fruton
Known for Recombinant DNA techniques
Notable awards AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility (1982)
National Medal of Science (1992)
Vannevar Bush Award (1999)
Public Welfare Medal (2007)
ASCB Public Service Award (2008)

Maxine Frank Singer (born February 15, 1931) is an American molecular biologist and science administrator.[1] She is known for her contributions to solving the genetic code, her role in the ethical and regulatory debates on recombinant DNA techniques (including the organization of the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA), and her leadership of Carnegie Institution of Washington.


Singer was born in New York City.[2] After attending public high school in Brooklyn, she majored in chemistry (and minored in biology) at Swarthmore College.[3] She went on to earn a Ph.D. in 1957 at Yale University, researching protein chemistry under Joseph Fruton. Fruton encouraged her to specialize in nucleic acids, and in 1956 she joined the Laboratory of Biochemistry of Leon Heppel at the National Institutes of Health.[4] Through her work there on RNA synthesis, Singer produced synthetic nucleotides that were used in Marshall Nirenberg's experiments establishing the triplet nature of the genetic code.[1]

In the wake of the 1973 report of the first use of recombinant DNA techniques to introduce genes from one species into another, Singer was among the first to call attention to the possible risks of genetic engineering. She was a chairperson of the 1973 Gordon Conference on Nucleic Acids, where the possible public health risks of the technique were discussed,[5] and she helped to organize the 1975 Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA that resulted in guidelines for dealing with the largely unknown risks of the technique.[1]

Singer was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978.[6] In 1988, she became president of Carnegie Institution of Washington, a position she held until 2002.[7] Singer received the National Medal of Science in 1992 "for her outstanding scientific accomplishments and her deep concern for the societal responsibility of the scientist"[8] and was the first woman to receive the Vannevar Bush Award, in 1999.[9] In 2007, she was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Profiles in Science, The Maxine Singer Papers".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Maxine Singer Papers, 1952-2004 (Biographical Note)".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "American Society for Cell Biology Member Profile: Maxine Singer" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Maxine Singer". Chemical Heritage Foundation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Letter from Maxine Singer to participants in the 1973 Gordon Conference on Nucleic Acids".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter S" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Maxine Singer Named President Of Carnegie". The Scientist. February 23, 1987.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "National Medal of Science 50th Anniversary: Maxine Singer".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Vannevar Bush Award Recipients".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Maxine F. Singer to Receive Public Welfare Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Jan 12, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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