Medicine: Secrets of Life

In the exquisitely complex chemistry of living things, no substances are more important than two that stand on the threshold between nonlife and life: ribonucleic acids (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). Nothing can live without some kind of RNA, and the kind of RNA it produces, which determines whether it will become an amoeba or a mammoth, is in turn determined by its DNA, the template of heredity. Last week two U.S. physician-scientists were named winners of the 1959 Nobel Prize ($42,606) in medicine for having synthesized giant molecules of RNA and DNA....

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