Charles Yanofsky was born April 17, 1925 in New York City, New York. He received his undergraduate education at the City College of New York (1948) and obtained a Ph.D. in microbiology in 1951 from Yale University. In 1958, Dr. Yanofsky moved to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where he remained for the rest of his career. He became the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Molecular Biology, retiring in 2010.
Dr. Yanofsky’s research focused on the control of gene expression, specifically the molecular regulatory mechanisms of bacterial transcription. Dr. Yanofsky’s contributions to molecular biology include establishing the “one gene, one protein” relationship. In 1964, Dr. Yanofsky and his colleagues proved that gene sequences and protein sequences are colinear: changes in DNA sequence can produce changes in protein sequence at corresponding positions. Their work demonstrated that controlled alterations in RNA structure allow RNA to serve as a regulatory molecule in both bacterial and animal cells. His subsequent experiments on the regulation of gene expression led to the discovery of transcriptional attenuation, a process that enables the gene regulatory machinery to fine-tune its response to subtle environmental cues. That work also revealed how alterations in RNA structure allow RNA to serve as a regulatory molecule in both bacterial and animal cells.
Throughout his career, Charles Yanofsky received numerous awards. He shared the Lasker Foundation award for medical research with Seymour Benzer and Sydney Brenner in 1971. In 1976, he won the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for outstanding biology research from Columbia University, again sharing the award with Sydney Brenner. Dr. Yanofsky was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society in 1985. In 2003, he was awarded the National Medal of Science, the country’s highest scientific honor. Dr. Yanofsky served as President of the Genetics Society of America (1970) and the American Society of Biological Chemists (1984).