Arthur Kornberg’s Discovery of DNA Polymerase I
Enzymatic Synthesis of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. I. Preparation of Substrates and
Partial Purification of an Enzyme from
(Lehman, I. R., Bessman, M. J., Simms, E. S., and Kornberg, A. (1958)
J. Biol. Chem.
Enzymatic Synthesis of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. II. General Properties of the
(Bessman, M. J., Lehman, I. R., Simms, E. S., and Kornberg, A. (1958)
J. Biol. Chem
Arthur Kornberg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 and was educated in its public
schools. He received his undergraduate degree in science from the City College of New York in
1937 and an M.D. degree from the University of Rochester in 1941. After a 1-year internship
in internal medicine, he served as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Public Health Service.
He was first assigned to the Navy as a ship’s doctor and then as a research scientist at the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1942 to 1953. He obtained
training in enzymology with Severo Ochoa at New York University School of Medicine in 1946
and with Carl Cori at Washington University School of Medicine in 1947. Both Ochoa and Cori
were authors of
Journal of Biological Chemistry
(JBC) Classics (1, 2), and additional infor-
mation on Kornberg’s research in these laboratories can be found in his JBC Reflections (3).
Upon returning to Bethesda, Kornberg organized and directed the Enzyme Section at the
NIH. He resigned in 1953 with the rank of Medical Director to assume the chairmanship of the
Department of Microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis,
Missouri. In 1959, he organized the Department of Biochemistry at the Stanford University
School of Medicine, serving as its chairman until 1969 and thereafter as professor. He accepted
the title of Professor Emeritus in 1988 and has been on active status to the present.
From his early studies of the mechanisms of the enzymatic synthesis of coenzymes and
inorganic pyrophosphate, Kornberg extended his interest to the biosynthesis of the nucleic
acids, particularly DNA. After elucidating key steps in the pathways of pyrimidine and purine