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George Beadle; Received Nobel Prize in Medicine

June 15, 1989

George W. Beadle, a former Caltech biology department chairman who won the 1958 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for helping discover that genes act by controlling enzymes that direct chemical reactions--a discovery that revolutionized the understanding of genes--has died of complications of Alzheimer's disease.

He had been living at the Mt. San Antonio Gardens retirement community in Pomona when he died Friday at 85.

Beadle shared the 1958 prize with Edward L. Tatum of the Rockefeller Institute and Dr. Joshua Lederberg of the University of Wisconsin. After his Nobel award, he became the seventh president of the University of Chicago, from 1961 to 1968, where he also taught biology.

Beadle was born on a farm near Wahoo, Neb., and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Nebraska. He earned a doctorate at Cornell, where he taught and did research until 1931, when he was awarded a fellowship at Caltech.

Beadle was an avid gardener who originally had wanted to study agriculture, but he became interested in genetics while at Nebraska. Later, when he was at Stanford University, Beadle began to make contributions to the chemical methods of studying mutations in genetics.

With Tatum, who was also then at Stanford, he subjected bread mold to X-rays and ultraviolet light and produced mutations, demonstrating that genes transmit hereditary characteristics by controlling chemical reactions. Lederberg also was part of the Stanford team.

Beadle was president of the Genetics Society of America in 1946 and the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in 1955 and 1956. He received more than 30 honorary degrees from universities throughout the world.

He was the co-author of "An Introduction to Genetics," "Genetics and Modern Biology" and "The Language of Life."

He is survived by his wife, Muriel, a sister, two sons and five grandchildren.

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