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Polynucleotide Synthesizer Model 280, Solid Phase Chemistry Module

view Polynucleotide Synthesizer Model 280, Solid Phase Chemistry Module digital asset: Front of Vega Biotechnologies polynucleotide synthesizer's solid phase chemistry unit with solvent and reagent bottles
Measurements:
overall: 51 cm x 54.3 cm x 33.3 cm; 20 3/32 in x 21 3/8 in x 13 1/8 in
Object Name:
polynucleotide synthesizer
solid phase chemistry module, polynucleotide synthesizer
Description (Brief):
In the late 1970s the growing field of genetics created a demand for made-to-order short-chain DNA molecules, known as polynucleotides. These designer stretches of DNA were important laboratory tools. Scientists used them both as probes to find specific DNA sequences in a larger genome and as the building blocks of custom genes for genetic engineering. Building polynucleotides by hand in the lab, however, was expensive, time consuming, and boring work.
In December 1980 Vega Biotechnologies introduced the first polynucleotide synthesizer or “gene machine,” which automated production of short DNA chains. The machine lowered the time needed to make a fifteen-base strand of DNA from several months to about a day, greatly reducing the price of customized DNA for research and industry. The instrument consisted of two parts: a chemistry unit and a computer unit. The chemistry unit assembled DNA using solid-phase chemistry techniques. The computer unit controlled the reaction and could be programmed with the desired DNA sequence for synthesis.
Sources:
Joseph A. Menosky, “Cheap, Fast Designer Genes,” The Washington Post, September 6, 1981, C1.
Untitled Essay by Leon E. Barstow, President of Vega Biotechnologies, from Accession File.
Accession File 1984.0719, National Museum of American History.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Science & Scientific Instruments
Chemistry
ID Number:
1984.0719.01
Catalog number:
1984.0719.01
Accession number:
1984.0719
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Polynucleotide Synthesizer Model 280, Solid Phase Microprocessor/Controller Model 100B

view Polynucleotide Synthesizer Model 280, Solid Phase Microprocessor/Controller Model 100B digital asset: Front of Vega Biotechnologies polynucleotide synthesizer's solid phase microprocessor/controller
Object Name:
solid phase microprocessor/controller (100B), polynucleotide synthesizer
Description (Brief):
In the late 1970s the growing field of genetics created a demand for made-to-order short-chain DNA molecules, known as polynucleotides. These designer stretches of DNA were important laboratory tools. Scientists used them both as probes to find specific DNA sequences in a larger genome and as the building blocks of custom genes for genetic engineering. Building polynucleotides by hand in the lab, however, was expensive, time consuming, and boring work.
In December 1980 Vega Biotechnologies introduced the first polynucleotide synthesizer or “gene machine,” which automated production of short DNA chains. The machine lowered the time needed to make a fifteen-base strand of DNA from several months to about a day, greatly reducing the price of customized DNA for research and industry. The instrument consisted of two parts: a chemistry unit and a computer unit. The chemistry unit assembled DNA using solid-phase chemistry techniques. The computer unit controlled the reaction and could be programmed with the desired DNA sequence for synthesis.
Sources:
Joseph A. Menosky, “Cheap, Fast Designer Genes,” The Washington Post, September 6, 1981, C1.
Untitled Essay by Leon E. Barstow, President of Vega Biotechnologies, from Accession File.
Accession File 1984.0719, National Museum of American History.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Science & Scientific Instruments
Chemistry
ID Number:
1984.0719.21
Catalog number:
1984.0719.21
Accession number:
1984.0719
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Electron Microscope Grids and Case

view Electron Microscope Grids and Case digital asset: Electron Microscope Grids and Case
User:
Cohen, Stanley N.
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
copper (overall material)
Measurements:
average spatial: .3 cm; x 1/8 in
Object Name:
grid, electron microscope
Associated place:
United States: California, Stanford, Stanford
Description (Brief):
This case held electron microscope (EM) grids used in the lab of Stanley Cohen at Stanford University. Made from tiny circles of copper mesh, EM grids are analogous to the glass slides used to mount samples for viewing under a light microscope. These grids were used to support recombinant bacteria and recombinant plasmids for study and analysis under the electron microscope. One of the grids contains a sample of Cohen and Boyer’s first recombinant plasmid. Photographic images of the first recombinant plasmids used in publications on Cohen and Boyer’s research were made from these grids.
For more information on the Cohen/Boyer experiments with recombinant DNA, see object 1987.0757.01
Sources:
Accession File
“EM Grid Preparation.” Purdue University. Accessed December 2012. http://bilbo.bio.purdue.edu/~baker/documentation/sample_and_prep/b2.htm
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Microscopy
ID Number:
1987.0757.07.02
Catalog number:
1987.0757.07.02
Accession number:
1987.0757
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Vertical Chamber for Gel Electrophoresis

view Vertical Chamber for Gel Electrophoresis digital asset: Vertical Chamber for Gel Electrophoresis
User:
Cohen, Stanley N.
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
wire (overall material)
red (overall color)
black (overall color)
Measurements:
overall: 21 cm x 19 cm x 17.5 cm; 8 9/32 in x 7 15/32 in x 6 7/8 in
Object Name:
vertical chamber
vertical chamber for gel electrophoresis
Associated place:
United States: California, Stanford, Stanford
Description (Brief):
This vertical chamber for gel electrophoresis was made in 1974 for the Stanley Cohen lab at Stanford University. Gel electrophoresis was one of the most important tools Cohen and Boyer used to analyze the effects of restriction enzymes on plasmids. The technique allows a way to visualize and isolate molecules by separating them out according to their length using an electrical current (for power supply see object 1987.0757.27).
For more information on the Cohen/Boyer experiments with recombinant DNA see object 1987.0757.01
Sources:
Accession file
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1987.0757.14
Catalog number:
1987.0757.14
Accession number:
1987.0757
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Duostat power supply

view Duostat power supply digital asset: Duostat power supply
User:
Cohen, Stanley N.
Maker:
Beckman Instruments
Physical Description:
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
Measurements:
average spatial: 19 cm x 20.3 cm x 26 cm; 7 15/32 in x 8 in x 10 1/4 in
Object Name:
power supply
Associated place:
United States: California, Stanford, Stanford
Description (Brief):
This power supply was used in the Stanley Cohen lab at Stanford University to run an electrical current through a vertical chamber for gel electrophoresis (see object 1987.0757.14). Gel electrophoresis was one of the most important tools Cohen and Boyer used to analyze the effects of restriction enzymes on plasmids. The technique allows a way to visualize molecules by separating them out according to their length using an electrical current.
For more information on the Cohen/Boyer experiments with recombinant DNA see object 1987.0757.01
Sources:
Accession File
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1987.0757.27
Catalog number:
1987.0757.27
Accession number:
1987.0757
Serial number:
8933
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Zeiss Opton Refractometer

view Zeiss Opton Refractometer digital asset: Zeiss Opton Refractometer
User:
Cohen, Stanley N.
Maker:
Zeiss
Physical Description:
metal (overall material)
glass (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
Measurements:
average spatial: 21.7 cm x 33 cm x 16.7 cm; 8 17/32 in x 13 in x 6 9/16 in
overall: 12 in x 14 in x 6 in; 30.48 cm x 35.56 cm x 15.24 cm
Object Name:
refractometer
Place made:
Deutschland
Associated place:
United States: California, Stanford, Stanford
Date made:
1946-1953
Description (Brief):
This refractometer was used in Stanley Cohen’s lab at Stanford University in his research on recombinant DNA. Refractometers measure how light changes velocity as it passes through a substance. This change is known as the refractive index and it is dependent on the composition of the substance being measured. In the Cohen lab, this refractometer was one of several techniques used to provide evidence that he and his research team had created a recombinant DNA molecule containing DNA from both a bacterium and a frog.
To conduct the analysis, Cohen separated out the molecule he assumed to be recombinant DNA and measured its refractive index. The index for the molecule fell between the known values for frog DNA and bacterial DNA, suggesting that the unknown DNA molecule was a mixture of the two.
For more information on the Cohen/Boyer experiments with recombinant DNA see object 1987.0757.01
Sources:
“Section 9.4.2: Buoyant Density Centrifugation.” Smith, H., ed. The Molecular Biology of Plant Cells. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft796nb4n2/
“Louisiana State University Macromolecular Studies Group How-To Guide: ABBE Zeiss Refractometer.” Pitot, Cécile. Accessed December 2012. http://macro.lsu.edu/howto/Abbe_refractometer.pdf
“Construction of Biologically Functional Bacterial Plasmids In Vitro.” Cohen, Stanley N., Annie C.Y. Chang, Herbert W. Boyer, Robert B. Helling. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. Vol. 70, No. 11. pp.3240–3244. November 1973.
“Replication and Transcription of Eukaryotic DNA in Escherichia coli.” Morrow, John F., Stanley N. Cohen, Annie C.Y. Chang, Herbert W. Boyer, Howard M. Goodman, Robert B. Helling. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. Vol. 71, No. 5. pp.1743–1747. May 1974.
Accession File
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1987.0757.28
Catalog number:
1987.0757.28
Accession number:
1987.0757
Serial number:
128646
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Light Box

view Light Box digital asset: UV light box used by Stanley Cohen for DNA research
User:
Cohen, Stanley N.
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
black (overall color)
white (overall color)
Measurements:
overall: 7.7 cm x 18.5 cm x 25.7 cm; 3 1/32 in x 7 9/32 in x 10 1/8 in
Object Name:
light box
Associated place:
United States: California, Stanford, Stanford
Description (Brief):
This UV light box was used in the lab of Stanley Cohen at Stanford University in his research on recombinant DNA. UV light boxes are used to help visualize results from of DNA and RNA analysis through gel electrophoresis. Molecules subjected to gel electrophoresis create a pattern of bands on a gel medium as they move. Scientists can interpret the pattern to obtain the results of the analysis. However, because the bands of molecules are naturally colorless, they must be dyed to be made visible. Dyes that fluoresce under UV radiation are commonly used. This UV light box was used to provide illumination behind the dyed bands, causing them to fluoresce so that they could be photographed and interpreted.
For more information on the Cohen/Boyer experiments with recombinant DNA see object 1987.0757.01
Source:
Accession File
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1987.0757.39
Catalog number:
1987.0757.39
Accession number:
1987.0757
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Arthur Kornberg Symposium Poster

view Arthur Kornberg Symposium Poster digital asset: Poster, Arthur Kornberg Symposium
Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 50.8 cm x 76.2 cm; 20 in x 30 in
overall: 30 in x 20 in; 76.2 cm x 50.8 cm
Object Name:
poster
Date made:
1988
Description (Brief):
This white poster features a red stylized image of DNA replicating and the signature of American biochemist Arthur Kornberg. It advertises the Arthur Kornberg Symposium in May 1988. The year marked the seventieth anniversary of Kornberg's birth. Kornberg is best known for his discoveries relating to the mechanism of DNA replication, including the first isolation of the enzyme DNA polymerase.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1990.3199.01
Catalog number:
1990.3199.01
Nonaccession number:
1990.3199
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Iowa's Biotech Express Banner

view Iowa's Biotech Express Banner digital asset: Banner, Iowa's Biotech Express.
Physical Description:
vinyl (overall material)
Measurements:
average spatial: 91.4 cm x 386 cm; 35 31/32 in x 151 31/32 in
Object Name:
banner
Used:
United States: Iowa, Ames
United States: Iowa, Iowa City
Date made:
1987
Description (Brief):
In 1987 the Iowa Biotechnology Consortium, a joint effort of Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development arranged the Iowa Biotech Showcase to promote the state as a center for biotechnology research and industry. At that time Iowa hoped to take advantage of the economic benefits promised by the expanding interest in biotechnology. Representatives from 50 businesses listened to presentations from researchers and agriculture companies about Iowa’s potential for becoming biotech’s answer to Silicon Valley. A train called the Iowa Biotech Express, on which this banner hung, served as a highlight of the event, transporting attendees between two of the state’s major research institutions, the campuses of Iowa State and the University of Iowa.
Sources:
Accession File
“Iowa Ties Rebound to Biotech Express.” Wechsler, Lorraine. The Scientist. October 19, 1987. Accessed online. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/9038/title/Iowa-Ties-Rebound-to-Biotech-Express/
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1991.0396.01
Catalog number:
1991.0396.01
Accession number:
1991.0396
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Drawing of PCR by Kary Mullis

view Drawing of PCR by Kary Mullis digital asset: Drawing of PCR by Kary Mullis
Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 81.3 cm x 68.5 cm; 32 in x 26 15/16 in
overall: 32 1/2 in x 27 in; 82.55 cm x 68.58 cm
Object Name:
drawing
Date made:
1992-05-15
Description (Brief):
Kary Mullis drew this diagram of the polymerase chain reaction process during an interview for a video history conducted on May 15, 1992, by former National Museum of American History curator Ray Kondratas. The video history is available at the Smithsonian Archives under record number SIA RU009577. Mullis invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 1983 as a method to copy specific portions of DNA. He won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his invention.
The drawing’s purple and red horizontal lines represent strands of DNA being copied. The letters “dNTPs” at the top of the page refer to deoxyribonucleotides, the individual units of DNA that are assembled into the longer continuous chain. A supply of dNTPs (which come in four types: dATP, dCTP, dGTP, and dTTP) are necessary for PCR to occur.
To learn more about PCR see object 1993.0166.01, Mr. Cycle.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Nobel Prize
ID Number:
1994.3125.01
Nonaccession number:
1994.3125
Catalog number:
1994.3125.01
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Amino Acid Analyzer

view Amino Acid Analyzer digital asset: Amino acid analyzer installed at the lab bench at Rockefeller University, 1996
Measurements:
overall: 2 m x 61 m x 91.5 m; 6 9/16 ft x 200 1/8 ft x 300 3/16 ft
Object Name:
amino acid analyzer
Description:
Proteins are among the most diverse and important molecules in the natural world. They come in a variety of shapes and perform a variety of tasks, from speeding up chemical reactions in the body to forming the basic structures of skin and muscle. All proteins are made from long chains of smaller molecules known as amino acids. The order of the amino acids, along with the way the chains are folded into a three-dimensional structure, gives each protein its unique shape and chemical characteristics. In the molecular world, form is directly tied to function. Therefore, scientists hoping to study the role of a specific protein must first understand its structure.
Some of the earliest research on protein structure focused not on the complex three-dimensional shape, but on the most basic part of protein structure—the order of the amino acids in the protein chain, known as its primary structure. To begin to decipher this order, it is useful to calculate how many of each kind of amino acid are present in a protein molecule, a process known as amino acid analysis. In the 1940s and 1950s, scientists conducted amino acid analysis by hand using a technique called column chromatography. First, they obtained a sample of pure protein for analysis. Next, they destroyed the bonds between each amino acid link in the protein chain, resulting in a mixture of free amino acids. Each amino acid, while sharing a similar basic structure, has a section (known as a side chain) that makes it unique from the other amino acids.
In column chromatography, scientists use these unique properties to separate the different amino acids from one another. They add the amino acids from a protein to the top of a column containing a resin and a buffer solution of varying pH. Given that different amino acids react in different ways with the resin and the buffers, each kind of amino acid makes its way through the column in a unique amount time. With a constant rate of flow through the tube, chemists knew at what time each amino acid should emerge from the column. Using this standard, they could identify the presence of each amino acid in a sample.
As a sample left the column it mixed with ninhydrin and was heated, a reaction that turned the mixture blue. By analyzing the intensity of the blue color, scientists could determine the amount of a particular amino acid present in the sample. Together, these pieces of information formed the basis of an empirical formula for a protein.
The process for amino acid analysis described above was labor intensive. In the 1950s biochemists Stanford Moore (1913–1982), William Stein (1911–1980), and Darrel Spackman (born 1924) at Rockefeller University designed a machine to automate this complicated process. Working with the Rockefeller instrument shop, they built a device that automatically injected samples into columns, used timers to release buffers, and incorporated photometers attached to recording devices to analyze the intensity of the ninhydrin mixture.
Moore, Stein, and Spackman published the plans for their machine in a 1958 article in Analytical Chemistry. Although they never patented their invention, they did work closely with scientific instrument manufacturers to design a commercial model, which became available soon after 1958. Moore and Stein used their original machine, seen here, for many projects. Among these projects was research on ribonuclease, for which they won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Their machine remained in the lab space they had occupied at Rockefeller University through 1996. Researchers continued to use it long after Moore and Stein had retired. The photos of the object seen here show the amino acid analyzer installed at Rockefeller University just before it was disassembled and brought to the Smithsonian.
Sources:
Moore-Stein Protein Sequencer Video Documentation, June 1996, Accession File 1997.3159, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Accession File 1996.0188, National Museum of American History.
William H. Stein and Stanford Moore, “The Chemical Structure of Proteins,” Scientific American 204, no. 2 (1961): 81-92.
Darrel H. Spackman, William H. Stein, and Stanford Moore, “Automatic Recording Apparatus for Use in the Chromatography of Amino Acids,” Analytical Chemistry 30, no. 7 (1958): 1190–1206.
Stanford Moore and William H. Stein, “Chromatographic Determination of Amino Acids by the Use of Automatic Recording Equipment,” Methods in Enzymology 6 (1963): 819–31.
Jeremy M. Berg, John L. Tymoczko, and Lubert Stryer, “3.2 Amino Acid Sequences Can Be Determined By Automated Edman Degradation” in Biochemistry (Macmillan, 2008): 102.
Stanford Moore and William H. Stein, “Chemical Structures of Pancreatic Ribonuclease and Deoxyribonuclease,” Science 180, no. 4085 (1973): 458–64.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Nobel Prize
Chemistry
Science & Scientific Instruments
ID Number:
1996.0188.01
Catalog number:
1996.0188.01
1996.188.01.1
Accession number:
1996.0188
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Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Gene Pulser Transfection Apparatus

view Gene Pulser Transfection Apparatus digital asset: Gene Pulser Transfection Apparatus, front
Maker:
Bio-Rad Laboratories
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 26 cm x 30.4 cm x 19 cm; 10 1/4 in x 11 15/16 in x 7 1/2 in
Object Name:
electroporator
Date made:
1986-1995
Description (Brief):
These objects are parts of the Gene Pulser, one of the first commercial electroporators. Manufactured by Bio-Rad, the Gene Pulser was on the market from 1986 to 1995.
Electroporation is a technique used to get drugs, proteins, DNA, and other molecules into cells. The method works by delivering a controlled electric pulse to cells in a solution. The pulse causes cells to briefly open pores in their cell membrane and take in molecules around them. The process is particularly useful in the creation of transgenic organisms.
The tan box with the black display seen in the first photo is the pulse generator, the part of the Gene Pulser that produces the electric pulses for electroporation. The white chamber seen in subsequent photos is the shocking chamber, used to hold samples for electroporation.
Sources:
Accession File
Gene Pulser Product Manuals
“Electroporation Makes Impact on DNA Delivery in Laboratory and Clinic.” Glaser, Vicki. Genetic Engineering News, September 15, 1996. pp. 14–15.
“Electroporation applications: Special needs and special systems.” Ostresh, Mitra. American Biotechnology Laboratory. January 1995. p. 18.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1998.0018.01
Accession number:
1998.0018
Catalog number:
1998.0018.01
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Gene Pulser Capacitance Extender

view Gene Pulser Capacitance Extender digital asset: Gene Pulser Transfection Apparatus, capacitance extender
Maker:
Bio-Rad Laboratories
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 20.9 cm x 22.8 cm x 14 cm; 8 1/4 in x 9 in x 5 1/2 in
Object Name:
capacitance extender
Description (Brief):
This capacitance extender is part of the Gene Pulser, one of the first commercial electroporators. Manufactured by Bio-Rad, the Gene Pulser was on the market from 1986 to 1995.
Electroporation is a technique used to get drugs, proteins, DNA, and other molecules into cells. The method works by delivering a controlled electric pulse to cells in a solution. The pulse causes cells to briefly open pores in their cell membrane and take in molecules around them. The process is particularly useful in the creation of transgenic organisms.
This unit increases the capacitance of the pulse generator (object number 1998.0018.01) alone. Together, the two are recommended for electroporation of most eukaryotic cells, including mammalian and plant cells.
Sources:
Accession File
Gene Pulser Product Manuals
“Electroporation Makes Impact on DNA Delivery in Laboratory and Clinic.” Glaser, Vicki. Genetic Engineering News, September 15, 1996. pp. 14–15.
“Electroporation applications: Special needs and special systems.” Ostresh, Mitra. American Biotechnology Laboratory. January 1995. p. 18.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1998.0018.02
Accession number:
1998.0018
Catalog number:
1998.0018.02
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Online Media:

Gene Pulser Pulse Controller

view Gene Pulser Pulse Controller digital asset: Gene Pulser Transfection Apparatus, pulse controller
Maker:
Bio-Rad Laboratories
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 20.3 cm x 22.8 cm x 14 cm; 8 in x 9 in x 5 1/2 in
Object Name:
pulse controller
Description (Brief):
This pulse controller is part of the Gene Pulser, one of the first commercial electroporators. Manufactured by Bio-Rad, the Gene Pulser was on the market from 1986 to 1995.
The pulse controller unit is used with the pulse generator (object number 1998.0018.01) for electroporation of bacteria and fungi.
Electroporation is a technique used to get drugs, proteins, DNA, and other molecules into cells. The method works by delivering a controlled electric pulse to cells in a solution. The pulse causes cells to briefly open pores in their cell membrane and take in molecules around them. The process is particularly useful in the creation of transgenic organisms.
Sources:
Accession File
Gene Pulser Product Manuals
“Electroporation Makes Impact on DNA Delivery in Laboratory and Clinic.” Glaser, Vicki. Genetic Engineering News, September 15, 1996. pp. 14–15.
“Electroporation applications: Special needs and special systems.” Ostresh, Mitra. American Biotechnology Laboratory. January 1995. p. 18.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1998.0018.03
Accession number:
1998.0018
Catalog number:
1998.0018.03
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Cuvette for Gene Pulser

view Cuvette for Gene Pulser digital asset: Gene pulser cuvette, 0.1 cm electrode gap
Physical Description:
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 1.3 cm x 1.3 cm x 5.4 cm; 1/2 in x 1/2 in x 2 1/8 in
Object Name:
cuvette
Description (Brief):
This cuvette is used to hold samples for the Gene Pulser, one of the first commercial electroporators. Electric pulses of differing field strengths can be achieved by using cuvettes of differing electrode gap sizes—the wider the gap, the smaller the pulse.
Electroporation is a technique used to get drugs, proteins, DNA and other molecules into cells. The method works by delivering a controlled electric pulse to cells in a solution. The pulse causes cells to briefly open pores in their cell membrane and take in molecules around them. The process is particularly useful in genetics in research related to transgenics and gene therapy.
Sources:
Accession File
Gene Pulser Product Manuals
“Electroporation Makes Impact on DNA Delivery in Laboratory and Clinic.” Glaser, Vicki. Genetic Engineering News, September 15, 1996. pp. 14–15.
“Electroporation applications: Special needs and special systems.” Ostresh, Mitra. American Biotechnology Laboratory. January 1995. p. 18.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
1998.0018.04.02
Accession number:
1998.0018
Catalog number:
1998.0018.04.02
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Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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Genetic Code Chart, Nirenberg

view Genetic Code Chart, Nirenberg digital asset number 1
Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 89.3 cm x 35.4 cm; 35 3/16 in x 13 15/16 in
Object Name:
chart
Description (Brief):
This chart was used in the National Institutesof Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins.
The chart, made from several sheets of graph paper taped together, shows the twenty amino acids in columns across the top of the chart. The 64 nucleotide codons, the specific segments of DNA that code for amino acids, are on the vertical axis. All entries on the chart are handwritten and some sections of the graph are circled or outlined in red. Dr. Nirenberg's signature is visible at the top of the chart. It was prepared by Nirenberg to keep track of which codons stood for which amino acids.
By the late 1950s, scientists understood that DNA was the molecule containing the instructions for life. The structure of DNA was also known-- a sort of twisted ladder shape known as double helix where the “side rails” consisted of a sugar phosphate backbone and the “rungs” were made of paired nucleic acid bases (represented by A, T, G, C). The structure suggested that the order of the bases formed a code representing the order in which amino acids should be joined to produce different kinds of proteins.
But what was the code? What order of bases made up the “code words” or "codons” DNA used to represent each of the 20 amino acids? Researchers hypothesized that each codon for amino acid would be three bases long. If it was only two bases long, that would allow for only 16 different combinations of the four bases (4^2 = 16). If each codon was three bases however, that would result in 64 possible codons (4^3 =64), plenty of codons to represent each of the 20 amino acids separately.
With this knowledge, Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues set about trying to figure out which three-base combinations represented each amino acid. It was known at the time that DNA is “transcribed” into a template RNA that interacts with ribosomes in the cell to produce proteins. Because RNA, not DNA, is what the cell reads directly to make proteins, Dr. Nirenberg reasoned that he could use a man-made stand-in for RNA that had a repeating known sequence (the same codon over and over) to produce proteins consisting of only one amino acid.
These stand-ins were known as “oligonucleotides” (see object 2001.0023.02). Using a cell-free system (one that has all the necessary parts for protein synthesis in a test tube rather than in a cell) Dr. Nirenberg introduced the oligonucleotides, consisting only of a single base, uracil, represented by U, over and over. This meant the only codon that could be read by the system was UUU or “poly-U.”
He then fed the system a supply of all 20 amino acids, one of which was radioactively labeled. Twenty different experiments were done, with only a single kind of amino acid radioactively labeled per experiment. Only when the cell was supplied with the radioactively labeled amino acid, phenylalanine, did the specially made poly-U oligonucleotide produce a radioactive protein. Nirenberg had demonstrated that the codon “UUU” is the code word for phenylalanine, and in doing so, he had cracked the first word in the genetic code.
Within five years, between the work of Nirenberg and that of several scientists using similar methods, the code for the remaining 63 codons would be understood. This chart was used to record progress in the efforts to decode those remaining 63 codons by recording the number of pmoles of radioactive aminoacyl-tRNA that bound to the ribosomes in response to a codon.
Location:
Currently not on view
Subject:
Nobel Prize
ID Number:
2001.0023.01
Accession number:
2001.0023
Catalog number:
2001.0023.01
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Jar of Oligonucleotides

view Jar of Oligonucleotides digital asset: Oligonucleotides
Physical Description:
glass (overall material)
metal (overall material)
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 24.2 cm x 10.8 cm x 10.8 cm; 9 1/2 in x 4 1/4 in x 4 1/4 in
Object Name:
jar of oligonucleotides
Description (Brief):
This jar was part of the National Institute of Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins. The jar holds 11 oligonucleotide samples, the short man-made sequences of nucleic acid bases that were a key element of Nirenberg’s experiments.
By the late 1950s, scientists understood that DNA was the molecule containing the instructions for life. The structure of DNA was also known-- a sort of twisted ladder shape known as double helix where the “side rails” consisted of a sugar phosphate backbone and the “rungs” were made of paired nucleic acid bases (represented by A, T, G, C). The structure suggested that the order of the bases formed a code representing the order in which amino acids should be joined to produce different kinds of proteins.
But what was the code? What order of bases made up the “code words” or "codons” DNA used to represent each of the 20 amino acids? Researchers hypothesized that each codon for amino acid would be three bases long. If it was only two bases long, that would allow for only 16 different combinations of the four bases (4^2 = 16). If each codon was three bases however, that would result in 64 possible codons (4^3 =64), plenty of codons to represent each of the 20 amino acids separately.
With this knowledge, Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues set about trying to figure out which three-base combinations represented each amino acid. It was known at the time that DNA is “transcribed” into a template RNA that interacts with ribosomes in the cell to produce proteins. Because RNA, not DNA, is what the cell reads directly to make proteins, Dr. Nirenberg reasoned that he could use a man-made stand-in for RNA that had a repeating known sequence (the same codon over and over) to produce proteins consisting of only one amino acid.
These stand-ins were known as “oligonucleotides” (see object 2001.0023.02). Using a cell-free system (one that has all the necessary parts for protein synthesis in a test tube rather than in a cell) Dr. Nirenberg introduced the oligonucleotides, consisting only of a single base, uracil, represented by U, over and over. This meant the only codon that could be read by the system was UUU or “poly-U.”
He then fed the system a supply of all 20 amino acids, one of which was radioactively labeled. Twenty different experiments were done, with only a single kind of amino acid radioactively labeled per experiment. Only when the cell was supplied with the radioactively labeled amino acid, phenylalanine, did the specially made poly-U oligonucleotide produce a radioactive protein. Nirenberg had demonstrated that the codon “UUU” is the code word for phenylalanine, and in doing so, he had cracked the first word in the genetic code.
Within five years, between the work of Nirenberg and that of several scientists using similar methods, the code for the remaining 63 codons would be understood.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
2001.0023.02
Accession number:
2001.0023
Catalog number:
2001.0023.02
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Sample, Tobacco Mosaic Virus RNA

view Sample, Tobacco Mosaic Virus RNA digital asset: sample of tobacco mosaic virus RNA
Physical Description:
glass (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 7 cm x 2 cm; 2 3/4 in x 13/16 in
Object Name:
sample, RNA
Description (Brief):
This sample of tobacco mosaic virus RNA was part of the National Institute of Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins. Prior to the availability of synthetic oligonucleotides (see object 2001.0023.02), Nirenberg used this sample of tobacco mosaic virus RNA as a source of mRNA for his experiments in optimizing the function of cell-free protein synthesis systems, an important precursor to his work of cracking the genetic code.
By the late 1950s, scientists understood that DNA was the molecule containing the instructions for life. The structure of DNA was also known-- a sort of twisted ladder shape known as double helix where the “side rails” consisted of a sugar phosphate backbone and the “rungs” were made of paired nucleic acid bases (represented by A, T, G, C). The structure suggested that the order of the bases formed a code representing the order in which amino acids should be joined to produce different kinds of proteins.
But what was the code? What order of bases made up the “code words” or "codons” DNA used to represent each of the 20 amino acids? Researchers hypothesized that each codon for amino acid would be three bases long. If it was only two bases long, that would allow for only 16 different combinations of the four bases (4^2 = 16). If each codon was three bases however, that would result in 64 possible codons (4^3 =64), plenty of codons to represent each of the 20 amino acids separately.
With this knowledge, Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues set about trying to figure out which three-base combinations represented each amino acid. It was known at the time that DNA is “transcribed” into a template RNA that interacts with ribosomes in the cell to produce proteins. Because RNA, not DNA, is what the cell reads directly to make proteins, Dr. Nirenberg reasoned that he could use a man-made stand-in for RNA that had a repeating known sequence (the same codon over and over) to produce proteins consisting of only one amino acid.
These stand-ins were known as “oligonucleotides” (see object 2001.0023.02). Using a cell-free system (one that has all the necessary parts for protein synthesis in a test tube rather than in a cell) Dr. Nirenberg introduced the oligonucleotides, consisting only of a single base, uracil, represented by U, over and over. This meant the only codon that could be read by the system was UUU or “poly-U.”
He then fed the system a supply of all 20 amino acids, one of which was radioactively labeled. Twenty different experiments were done, with only a single kind of amino acid radioactively labeled per experiment. Only when the cell was supplied with the radioactively labeled amino acid, phenylalanine, did the specially made poly-U oligonucleotide produce a radioactive protein. Nirenberg had demonstrated that the codon “UUU” is the code word for phenylalanine, and in doing so, he had cracked the first word in the genetic code.
Within five years, between the work of Nirenberg and that of several scientists using similar methods, the code for the remaining 63 codons would be understood.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
2001.0023.03
Accession number:
2001.0023
Catalog number:
2001.0023.03
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Online Media:

Sample, Bacteriophage RNA

view Sample, Bacteriophage RNA digital asset: sample of bacterial virus RNA
Physical Description:
glass (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 4.8 cm x 1.2 cm; 1 7/8 in x 1/2 in
Object Name:
sample, RNA
Description (Brief):
This sample of MS2 bacteriophage (bacterial virus) RNA was part of the National Institute of Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins.
By the late 1950s, scientists understood that DNA was the molecule containing the instructions for life. The structure of DNA was also known-- a sort of twisted ladder shape known as double helix where the “side rails” consisted of a sugar phosphate backbone and the “rungs” were made of paired nucleic acid bases (represented by A, T, G, C). The structure suggested that the order of the bases formed a code representing the order in which amino acids should be joined to produce different kinds of proteins.
But what was the code? What order of bases made up the “code words” or "codons” DNA used to represent each of the 20 amino acids? Researchers hypothesized that each codon for amino acid would be three bases long. If it was only two bases long, that would allow for only 16 different combinations of the four bases (4^2 = 16). If each codon was three bases however, that would result in 64 possible codons (4^3 =64), plenty of codons to represent each of the 20 amino acids separately.
With this knowledge, Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues set about trying to figure out which three-base combinations represented each amino acid. It was known at the time that DNA is “transcribed” into a template RNA that interacts with ribosomes in the cell to produce proteins. Because RNA, not DNA, is what the cell reads directly to make proteins, Dr. Nirenberg reasoned that he could use a man-made stand-in for RNA that had a repeating known sequence (the same codon over and over) to produce proteins consisting of only one amino acid.
These stand-ins were known as “oligonucleotides” (see object 2001.0023.02). Using a cell-free system (one that has all the necessary parts for protein synthesis in a test tube rather than in a cell) Dr. Nirenberg introduced the oligonucleotides, consisting only of a single base, uracil, represented by U, over and over. This meant the only codon that could be read by the system was UUU or “poly-U.”
He then fed the system a supply of all 20 amino acids, one of which was radioactively labeled. Twenty different experiments were done, with only a single kind of amino acid radioactively labeled per experiment. Only when the cell was supplied with the radioactively labeled amino acid, phenylalanine, did the specially made poly-U oligonucleotide produce a radioactive protein. Nirenberg had demonstrated that the codon “UUU” is the code word for phenylalanine, and in doing so, he had cracked the first word in the genetic code.
Within five years, between the work of Nirenberg and that of several scientists using similar methods, the code for the remaining 63 codons would be understood.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
2001.0023.04
Accession number:
2001.0023
Catalog number:
2001.0023.04
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Online Media:

Publication Plate

view Publication Plate digital asset: publication plate, open
Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 22.7 cm x 27.7 cm; 8 15/16 in x 10 7/8 in
Object Name:
publication plate
Description (Brief):
This publication plate was used in a scientific journal article describing results from the National Institute of Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins.
By the late 1950s, scientists understood that DNA was the molecule containing the instructions for life. The structure of DNA was also known-- a sort of twisted ladder shape known as double helix where the “side rails” consisted of a sugar phosphate backbone and the “rungs” were made of paired nucleic acid bases (represented by A, T, G, C). The structure suggested that the order of the bases formed a code representing the order in which amino acids should be joined to produce different kinds of proteins.
But what was the code? What order of bases made up the “code words” or "codons” DNA used to represent each of the 20 amino acids? Researchers hypothesized that each codon for amino acid would be three bases long. If it was only two bases long, that would allow for only 16 different combinations of the four bases (4^2 = 16). If each codon was three bases however, that would result in 64 possible codons (4^3 =64), plenty of codons to represent each of the 20 amino acids separately.
With this knowledge, Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues set about trying to figure out which three-base combinations represented each amino acid. It was known at the time that DNA is “transcribed” into a template RNA that interacts with ribosomes in the cell to produce proteins. Because RNA, not DNA, is what the cell reads directly to make proteins, Dr. Nirenberg reasoned that he could use a man-made stand-in for RNA that had a repeating known sequence (the same codon over and over) to produce proteins consisting of only one amino acid.
These stand-ins were known as “oligonucleotides” (see object 2001.0023.02). Using a cell-free system (one that has all the necessary parts for protein synthesis in a test tube rather than in a cell) Dr. Nirenberg introduced the oligonucleotides, consisting only of a single base, uracil, represented by U, over and over. This meant the only codon that could be read by the system was UUU or “poly-U.”
He then fed the system a supply of all 20 amino acids, one of which was radioactively labeled. Twenty different experiments were done, with only a single kind of amino acid radioactively labeled per experiment. Only when the cell was supplied with the radioactively labeled amino acid, phenylalanine, did the specially made poly-U oligonucleotide produce a radioactive protein. Nirenberg had demonstrated that the codon “UUU” is the code word for phenylalanine, and in doing so, he had cracked the first word in the genetic code.
Within five years, between the work of Nirenberg and that of several scientists using similar methods, the code for the remaining 63 codons would be understood.
Location:
Currently not on view
ID Number:
2001.0023.05
Accession number:
2001.0023
Catalog number:
2001.0023.05
See more items in:
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source:
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Online Media:

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