Honorary Fellow Frederick Sanger dies

Frederick Sanger

Professor Frederick Sanger OM, CH, CBE, FRS, FAA (1918-2013)

Honorary Fellow and double Nobel Laureate Professor Frederick Sanger died yesterday (Tuesday 19 November). He was 95.

Sanger was a Fellow of King's from 1954 until his retirement in 1983, when he was elected an Honorary Fellow.

He was born in 1918 in Rendcombe, Gloucestershire, and read science at St John's College, Cambridge. As an undergraduate, he became particularly interested in biochemistry. It was, he said, "a way to really understand living matter and to develop a more scientific basis to many medical problems."

Sanger was from a Quaker background and was a conscientious objector in the Second World War, so he was able to complete his PhD at St John's in 1943. It was during this period he began studying the structure of insulin.

He developed ground breaking methods to sequence amino acids and used them to deduce the complete sequence of insulin, an achievement that in 1958 won him his first Nobel Prize.

In 1962 Sanger moved to the new Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, which included such luminaries as Crick, Kendrew, Huxley and Klug. Here he became interested in nucleic acids and developed a rapid method of DNA sequencing.

This "dideoxy" or "Sanger" sequencing method led to Sanger receiving his second Nobel Prize in 1980. The method formed a basis for mapping the human genome, and it is still used today.

He was awarded a CBE in 1963 and was made a Companion of Honour (1981) and a member of the Order of Merit (1986). In 1992 the University of Cambridge named a new genetics research centre after him, which is now the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.


20 November 2013