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2005 Gruber Genetics The Science

Robert Waterston is distinguished for numerous powerful contributions to genetics. He pioneered the molecular genetic analysis of muscle structure, function and assembly in C. elegans, personally identifying many of the genes involved. He discovered and analyzed the first tRNA suppressors to be found in C. elegans, or indeed in any multicellular organism.

He was one of the fathers of genomics. Together we (John Sulston) mapped and then sequenced the genome of C. elegans – the first multicellular organism in which this task was accomplished. In the public sequencing of the human genome he not only carried out much of the work but also was the central coordinator, constructing the physical map that formed the framework for the enterprise. Earlier he had released a very large set of human and other cDNA sequences for public use.

His influence was critical in the free release of genomic information, without which many biologists would be unable to access this fundamental data. Most recently, he has led on sequencing of mouse, C. briggsae, and chimpanzee, the finishing of the human genome, and the human SNP map. With his appointment as chair of genome sciences at UW, there are further great opportunities ahead, and he has the energy and enthusiasm to make the most of them.

By John Sulston