According to the BBC News, Fred Sanger (I never heard anyone call him “Frederick”) died yesterday at age 95. He was the only English person to ever win two Nobel Prizes. These were both in chemistry. One, given in 1958 (and to Sanger alone), was for determining the amino acid sequence of insulin from cows, dispelling a common idea that proteins did not have a definite and repeatable sequence. The method, involving paper chromatography, was laborious.
The second prize was for a unique method of DNA sequencing (the so-called “Sanger sequencing”) that he published with in 1977 with Alan Coulson and S. Nicklen in the Proceeding of the National Academies of Science (click the link to see a paper that nabbed a Nobel). Sanger, Wally Gilbert (who developed another method of sequencing DNA) and Paul Berg (who worked on the chemistry of nucleic acids) shared the chemistry Nobel in 1980.
Wikipedia gives a few interesting tidbits about the man:
He has lost his religious faith and calls himself an agnostic. In an interview published in the Times newspaper in 2000 Sanger is quoted as saying: “My father was a committed Quaker and I was brought up as a Quaker, and for them truth is very important. I drifted away from those beliefs – one is obviously looking for truth but one needs some evidence for it. Even if I wanted to believe in God I would find it very difficult. I would need to see proof.”
Ah, the old “lack of evidence” statement that turns so many scientists into nonbelievers.
Also, when reading his obituary I didn’t see any reference to “Sir Frederick Sanger,” and don’t ever remember him being called “Sir Fred.” That’s because of this:
He declined the offer of a knighthood as he did not wish to be addressed as “Sir” but later accepted the award of an Order of Merit.
Sanger was one of the good guys, known for his lack of cant and arrogance.
By the way, can you name the other three people who won the Nobel Prize twice? I’m sure you’ll know at least one, but think before you look up the answer (here).