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09/18/2010

One year ago: Dr. Mahlon Hoagland

September 18, 2010 |  7:00 am

Hoagland Dr. Mahlon Hoagland, who died one year ago, helped unravel the mystery of how cells build proteins by discovering a molecule called tRNA that brings individual amino acids to growing protein chains. He spent the latter part of his career writing books that explained biology to the public.

In the early 1950s, Hoagland came to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he teamed up with Paul C. Zamecnik on research that led to their famed discovery. In 1960, their work was followed up by Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, who discovered a molecule dubbed messenger RNA that carries genetic information from nuclear DNA to the ribosome.

"He and Zamecnik deserved to win the Nobel Prize for their fundamental work on tRNA," said biologist James Watson, who shared the Nobel with Francis Crick for discovering the structure of DNA.

Hoagland had always argued that teaching was as crucial to scientific advancement as research and had disparaged many textbooks as needlessly complicated. After retiring, he teamed with artist Bert Dodson to create "The Way Life Works," which combines whimsical watercolors with concise explanations of scientific discovery and received the American Medical Writers Book Award in 1996.

For more, read Dr. Mahlon Hoagland's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Mahlon Hoagland. Credit: Chris Christo / Worchester Telegram & Gazette

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