Alexander Rich

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Alexander Rich
Born(1924-11-15)November 15, 1924
DiedApril 27, 2015(2015-04-27) (aged 90)
ResidenceCambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Alma materHarvard University, USA
Known fordiscoverer of polysomes and Z-DNA
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
InfluencesFrancis Crick[1]

Alexander Rich (November 15, 1924 – April 27, 2015) was an American biologist and biophysicist. He was the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at MIT (since 1958) and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rich earned both an A.B. (magna cum laude) and an M.D. (cum laude) from Harvard University. He was a post-doc of Linus Pauling along with James Watson. During this time he was a member of the RNA Tie Club, a social and discussion group which attacked the question of how DNA encodes proteins. He had over 600 publications to his name.[2]

Born in Hartford, Connecticut,[3] Rich was the founder of Alkermes and was a director beginning in 1987. Dr. Rich was Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Repligen Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company. He was also a member of the Board of Directors for Profectus BioSciences, Inc. He also served on the editorial board of Genomics and the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics.

In 1963, Rich discovered polysomes: clusters of ribosomes which read one strand of mRNA simultaneously.[4]

In 1973, Rich's lab determined the structure of tRNA.[5]

In 1979, Rich and co-workers at MIT grew a crystal of Z-DNA.[6] This was the first crystal structure of any form of DNA. After 26 years of attempts, Rich et al. finally crystallised the junction box of B- and Z-DNA. Their results were published in an October 2005 Nature journal.[7] Whenever Z-DNA forms, there must be two junction boxes that allow the flip back to the canonical B-form of DNA. Rich died on April 27, 2015, aged 90.[8]

Rich was married to Jane King and is survived by four children: Benjamin, Josiah, Rebecca, and Jessica Rich Sturley.[9]

List of awards and prizes received[edit]

Awards and prizes[edit]

  • Sigma Xi Proctor Prize, Raleigh, NC (2001)
  • Bower Award and Prize, the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA (2000)
  • National Medal of Science, Washington, DC (1995)
  • Linus Pauling Medal, American Chemical Society, Northwest Sections (1995)
  • Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award in Basic Biomedical Research, Brandeis Univ., Waltham, MA (1983)
  • James R. Killian Faculty Achievement Award, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1980)
  • Presidential Award, New York Academy of Science, New York, NY (1977)
  • Theodore van Karmen Award for Viking Mars Mission, Washington, DC (1976)
  • Skylab Achievement Award, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC (1974)


  • Foreign Member, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia (1994)
  • Honorary Member, Japanese Biochemical Society, Tokyo, Japan (1986)
  • Foreign Member, French Academy of Sciences, Paris, France (1984)
  • Honorary Doctorate, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1981)
  • American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA (1980)
  • Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1978)
  • National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC (1970)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC (1965)
  • Fellow, Guggenheim Foundation (1963)
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, MA (1959)
  • Fellow, National Research Council, Washington, DC (1949–51).


  1. ^ Rich, A.; Stevens, C. F. (2004). "Obituary: Linus Pauling Francis Crick (1916–2004)". Nature. 430 (7002): 845–847. Bibcode:2004Natur.430..845R. doi:10.1038/430845a. PMID 15318208.
  2. ^ Schimmel, Paul (2015). "Alexander Rich (1924–2015) Biologist who discovered ribosome clusters and 'left-handed' DNA". Nature. 521 (7552): 291–291. Bibcode:2015Natur.521..291S. doi:10.1038/521291a. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 25993953.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Warner JR, Knopf PM, Rich A (1963). "A MULTIPLE RIBOSOMAL STRUCTURE IN PROTEIN SYNTHESIS". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 49 (1): 122–129. Bibcode:1963PNAS...49..122W. doi:10.1073/pnas.49.1.122. PMC 300639. PMID 13998950.
  5. ^ Perrigue, Patrick M.; Erdmann, Volker A.; Barciszewski, Jan (1 October 2015). "Alexander Rich: In Memoriam". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 40 (11): 623–624. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2015.08.009.
  6. ^ Wang AH, Quigley GJ, Kolpak FJ, Crawford JL, van Boom JH, Van der Marel G, Rich A (1979). "Molecular structure of a left-handed double helical DNA fragment at atomic resolution". Nature. 282 (5740): 680–686. Bibcode:1979Natur.282..680W. doi:10.1038/282680a0. PMID 514347.
  7. ^ Ha SC, Lowenhaupt K, Rich A, Kim YG, Kim KK (2005). "Crystal structure of a junction between B-DNA and Z-DNA reveals two extruded bases". Nature. 437 (7062): 1183–1186. Bibcode:2005Natur.437.1183H. doi:10.1038/nature04088. PMID 16237447.
  8. ^ Trafton A (2015). "Alexander Rich dies at 90".
  9. ^
  10. ^ "2008 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipient". The Welch Foundation. Archived from the original on 19 October 2008.

Selected publications[edit]

External links[edit]