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Medical biologist Sydney Brenner started conducting chemical experiments in a homemade laboratory at age 15.
An acclaimed South African biologist, Sydney Brenner is highly regarded for his unwavering commitment to this field. As a medical biologist Sydney Brenner is also renowned for his pioneering scientific research.
Sydney Brenner was born in Germiston in 1927 to Jewish immigrant parents, and proved to be a genius from a young age. He completed the first three years of his primary education in one year, matriculated at age 14, and at 15 was enrolled in his first year of medical studies at Wits University.
It was then that cellular functions piqued his interest, prompting Brenner to complete an MSc and Honours degree in anatomy and physiology and later, his MB BCh degrees.
He was awarded an Oxford University scholarship and completed a PhD in physical chemistry before returning home two years later to work at unlocking the genetic code.
Brenner returned to the UK when he was awarded a position at Cambridge's Medical Research Council. He remained in England for 20 years, continuing research into the human brain and nervous system.
In the 1970s, Brenner began delving more deeply into genetics. He was fascinated by the possibilities of cloning and new DNA sequencing techniques and supported the Human Genome Sequencing Project.
In 1986, after seven years at the helm of the MRC Laboratory, Brenner resigned his post, relocating to California. Here he developed a new DNA sequencing method and in 1995, founded the Molecular Sciences Institute. Six years later, he was appointed a distinguished professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Brenner won numerous awards during his career, including two Lasker Awards. In 2002 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for research into the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.
This groundbreaking research demonstrated how viruses and bacteria invade human cells, and the role of abnormal cell death in diseases such as HIV/Aids and cancer, paving the way for future work in this critical field.