Paul Nurse
Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, PRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (born 25 January 1949) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms. A geneticist can be employed as a researcher or lecturer. Some geneticists perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of skills. A geneticist is also a Consultant or...

 and cell biologist. He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 with Leland H. Hartwell
Leland H. Hartwell
Leland Harrison Hartwell is former president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. He shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and R...

 and R. Timothy Hunt for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells in the cell cycle
Cell cycle
The cell cycle, or cell-division cycle, is the series of events that takes place in a cell leading to its division and duplication . In cells without a nucleus , the cell cycle occurs via a process termed binary fission...


When cells with nuclei divide, they divide in phases called G1 (growth), S (synthesis), G2 (growth), and M (mitosis). Nurse, Hartwell and Hunt together discovered two proteins, cyclin
Cyclins are a family of proteins that control the progression of cells through the cell cycle by activating cyclin-dependent kinase enzymes.- Function :...

 and CDK (cyclin dependent kinase), that control the transition from one stage to another. These proteins are called checkpoints, because they check whether the cell has divided properly. If the cell doesn't divide correctly, other proteins will attempt to repair it, and if unsuccessful, they will destroy the cell. If a cell divides incorrectly and survives, it can cause cancer and other serious diseases.

Working in yeast, Nurse identified the gene cdc2, which controls the transition from G1 to S, when the cell grows in preparation for the duplication of DNA, and G2 to M, when the cell divides. Nurse also found the corresponding gene, CDK1, in humans. These genes stop and start cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) by adding or removing phosphate groups.

Nurse is the current President of the Royal Society
President of the Royal Society
The president of the Royal Society is the elected director of the Royal Society of London. After informal meetings at Gresham College, the Royal Society was founded officially on 15 July 1662 for the encouragement of ‘philosophical studies’, by a royal charter which nominated William Brouncker as...

 and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute.

Nurse believes that scientists should speak out about science in public affairs and challenge politicians who support policies based on pseudoscience.

Early life and career

Nurse's mother came from Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

. His biological maternal grandmother pretended to be his mother while she was alive and his mother pretended to be his sister for her entire life too. He was born in Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

, Norfolk, and was educated at Lyon Park school in Alperton
Alperton is a district in the London Borough of Brent in northwest London.There is a high incidence of Indians living in Alperton . There is also a small Sri Lankan community in Alperton , and 10% stated as others....

 and Harrow County School for Boys. He received his undergraduate degree
Undergraduate degree
An undergraduate degree is a colloquial term for an academic degree taken by a person who has completed undergraduate courses. It is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university...

 in 1970 from the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

 and his PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree in 1973 from School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia
University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia is a public research university based in Norwich, United Kingdom. It was established in 1963, and is a founder-member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.-History:...

. Beginning in 1976, Nurse identified the gene cdc2 in yeast
Yeasts are eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the kingdom Fungi, with 1,500 species currently described estimated to be only 1% of all fungal species. Most reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by an asymmetric division process called budding...

 (Schizosaccharomyces pombe
Schizosaccharomyces pombe
Schizosaccharomyces pombe, also called "fission yeast", is a species of yeast. It is used as a model organism in molecular and cell biology. It is a unicellular eukaryote, whose cells are rod-shaped. Cells typically measure 3 to 4 micrometres in diameter and 7 to 14 micrometres in length...

). This gene controls the progression of the cell cycle from G1 phase
G1 phase
The G1 phase is a period in the cell cycle during interphase, before the S phase. For many cells, this phase is the major period of cell growth during its lifespan. During this stage new organelles are being synthesized, so the cell requires both structural proteins and enzymes, resulting in great...

 to S phase
S phase
S-phase is the part of the cell cycle in which DNA is replicated, occurring between G1 phase and G2 phase. Precise and accurate DNA replication is necessary to prevent genetic abnormalities which often lead to cell death or disease. Due to the importance, the regulatory pathways that govern this...

 and the transition from G2 phase
G2 phase
G2 phase is the 3rd and final subphase of Interphase in the cell cycle directly preceding Mitosis. It follows the successful completion of S phase, during which the cell’s DNA is replicated...

 to mitosis
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

. In 1987, Nurse identified the homologous gene in human, Cdk1
Cyclin dependent kinase 1 also known as Cdk1 or cell division control protein 2 homolog is a highly conserved protein that functions as a serine/threonine kinase, and is a key player in cell cycle regulation. It has been highly studied in the budding yeast S. cerevisiae, and the fission yeast S....

, which codes for a cyclin dependent kinase.

In 1984, Nurse joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF, now Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is a cancer research and awareness charity in the United Kingdom, formed on 4 February 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Its aim is to reduce the number of deaths from cancer. As the world's largest independent cancer...

). He left in 1988 to chair the department of microbiology at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

. He then returned to the ICRF as Director of Research in 1993, and in 1996 was named Director General of the ICRF, which became Cancer Research UK in 2002. In 2003, he became president of Rockefeller University
Rockefeller University
The Rockefeller University is a private university offering postgraduate and postdoctoral education. It has a strong concentration in the biological sciences. It is also known for producing numerous Nobel laureates...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 where he continues to work on the cell cycle of fission yeast. It was announced on 15 July 2010 that Nurse was to become the first Director and Chief Executive of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. He took up his post on 1 January 2011.

On 30 November 2010, Sir Paul took over from Martin Rees as president of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...


Political views

Nurse criticized the Republican candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential elections for opposing Darwinian evolution, embryonic stem cell research, and climate change, and blamed scientists in part for not speaking up.

He was alarmed that this could happen in the U.S., a world leader in science, "the home of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman
Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics...

 and Jim Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...


One problem, Nurse said, was "treating scientific discussion as if it were political debate," using rhetorical tricks rather than logic. Another problem was science teaching in the schools, which does not teach citizens how to discuss science, and is compromised by religious schools (even in the U.K.).

"We need to emphasize why the scientific process is such a reliable generator of knowledge with its respect for evidence, for skepticism, for consistency of approach, for the constant testing of ideas," wrote Nurse.

Finally, scientific leaders "have a responsibility to expose the bunkum," said Nurse. They should take on politicians, and expose nonsense during elections.

Awards and honours

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Nurse has received numerous awards and honours. In 1989, he became a fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 and in 1995 he received a Royal Medal
Royal Medal
The Royal Medal, also known as The Queen's Medal, is a silver-gilt medal awarded each year by the Royal Society, two for "the most important contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge" and one for "distinguished contributions in the applied sciences" made within the Commonwealth of...

 and became a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

. He received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
The Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research is one of the prizes awarded by the Lasker Foundation for the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and cure of disease...

 in 1998. Nurse was knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 in 1999. He was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 in 2002. He was also awarded the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

 in 2005. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 one of the top honours in April 2006. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering
Campaign for Science and Engineering
The Campaign for Science and Engineering is a non-profit organization which promotes science and engineering in the UK. It focuses on arguing for more research funding, promoting a high-tech and knowledge-based economy, highlighting the need for top-quality science and maths education at all...


Further reading

  • Les Prix Nobel. 2002. The Nobel Prizes 2001, Editor Tore Frängsmyr. Nobel Foundation: Stockholm.

External links


News media

Lectures and publications
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