Berkeleyan Masthead

This Week's Stories

Bancroft Documents Shed Light on Little-Known Chapter in Career of Mexico's Pancho Villa

Commencements Are Coming

University Medalist Vikram Rao

Positive Pressure Against Sweatshops

New Evidence Links Mass Extinction with Volcanic Eruptions

Governor Gray Davis Headlines Charter Day Celebration of Campus' 131 Years

Faculty Stipends, Year-Round Education Discussed at Academic Senate Meeting

Colescott Paintings Use Humor to Deliver Stinging Social Commentary

Hearst Museum Receives $700,000 NEH Grant

Tjian Shares $250,000 Sloan Prize For Outstanding Cancer Research

CED's Rubin Named To High HUD Post

CED Revitalization Plan Would Bring 10,000 New Residents to Downtown Oakland

Photo: Visiting Scholars Reception

Photo: White House Confidential

Photo: Genethlia = Birthday Celebration (in Ancient Greek)

Photo: Alternate Mode of Travel

Regular Features


Campus Calendar


News Briefs




Posted May 5, 1999

Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat

Heinz L. Fraenkel-Conrat, a biochemist and professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology, died of pulmonary failure April 10 at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. He was 88.

During his distinguished career, Fraenkel-Conrat, a Berkeley resident, made the landmark discovery that genetic information controlling viral reproduction is carried in the nucleic acid core of each virus particle. He has been cited as the first man to take a virus apart, separate its components and put it back together again to reconstitute a live virus.

Colleague Robley Williams, a campus biophysicist, determined that the structure of the synthetic tobacco mosaic virus was indistinguishable from the original, and Fraenkel-Conrat showed that it was nearly as infectious as the wild virus.

Michael Botchan, professor of molecular and cell biology, said the idea that RNA as well as DNA could act as genetic material was still surprising when Fraenkel-Conrat and his colleagues made their discoveries in the 1950s.

Born in Breslau, Germany, Fraenkel-Conrat received an MD from the University of Breslau in 1933. After Hitler came to power, he left for Scotland, where he earned a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In 1936 he came to the United States, conducting research at various institutions. He joined the Berkeley faculty in 1952.

In 1960, Fraenkel-Conrat and colleagues announced the complete sequencing of the 158 amino acids of the tobacco mosaic virus protein, the largest protein whose structure was then known.

He continued active research all his life, publishing his last paper on viral reconstitution this year with his wife and collaborator, Bea Singer, currently a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory biochemist. She worked with him from the early days, first showing viral RNA alone was infectious, an important step in elucidating the genetic code.

Fraenkel-Conrat received numerous honors, including the Albert Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research, the first California Scientist of the Year Award, two Guggenheim fellowships and the Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award. He was the Berkeley Faculty Research Lecturer for the university's 100th anniversary and was even granted the pope's Pontifical Medal, said Singer.

A dedicated teacher, Fraenkel-Conrat launched a large molecular biology undergraduate course for non-scientists and invited undergraduates to consult with him at any time. He also edited or co-edited numerous books, including two textbook series.

In accordance with Fraenkel-Conrat's wishes, there will be no memorial service. Friends are invited to donate in his name to Bancroft Library.


May 5 - 11, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 33)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail