Award Name : National Medal of Science
Year of Award : 1982
Award for : Biology
Location : Brooklyn, New York, United States
Seymour Benzer was an American physicist, molecular biologist and behavioral geneticist. His career began during the molecular biology revolution of the 1950s, and he eventually rose to prominence in the fields of molecular and behavioral genetics. He led a productive genetics research lab both at Purdue University and as the James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology. Seymour Benzer was born in 1921 and grew up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. His parents emigrated from Warsaw, Poland and worked in the garment industry.
At 15, Benzer graduated from high school and studied physics and chemistry at Brooklyn College on a Regents Scholarship. He continued his study of physics in graduate school at Purdue University where he worked on a secret military radar project. After ten years of work on the rII system, and prompted by observations of his two daughters, Benzer began studying how genes shape behavior. As a professor of biology at Caltech, he and his graduate student Ronald Konopka were the first to find a gene that controls an organism's sense of time. Benzer received the Crafoord Prize in 1993 for his pioneering work in genes and behavior. He received the National Medal Of Science in 1982. Benzer suddenly died of a stroke at 86 in November 2007.