Har Gobind Khorana Biography : Birth | Research | Awards | Death


Har Gobind Khorana Biography

Birth | Research | Awards | Death

Har Gobind Khorana  is an Indian- American molecular biologist. In 1968, Har Gobind Khorana was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his excellent work on the interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. This award made him famous in all over the world.

Har Gobind Khorana
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Har Gobind Khorana  was the citizen of India but he became a naturalized citizen of the United State America in the year 1966 and subsequently received the National Medal of Science.


Har Gobind Khorna was born into a poor family in 9 january 1922, in Raipur in West Punjab which is now is known as Lahore.

Childhood & Early Life

Har Gobind Khorana  was born as the youngest child to Hindu parents in a village in West Punjab. He had three elder brothers and one sister. His father worked as the village “patwari” or taxation officer. His family was poor but his father insisted on providing him a good education. Early on he went to a local school where he was educated under a tree by a village teacher, his father also taught him at home. His family was in fact the only literate one in the whole village.

Har Gobind Khorana  went to the D.A.V High School in Multan where he was greatly influenced by his teacher, Ratan Lal. He earned a scholarship to study chemistry at the Punjab University, Lahore. Hargobind Khorana completed his B.Sc in 1943 and M.Sc in 1945. A brilliant student, Har Gobind Khorana  was awarded a scholarship by the Government of India to study at the University of Liverpool.

Har Gobind Khorana  went to England where he worked for a Ph.D degree at the University of Liverpool under the supervision of Roger J.S. Beer. It was the first time he had traveled outside India and this experience was his introduction to the Western culture. He earned his Ph.D in 1948. Hargobind Khorana continued his post doctoral studies in Zurich at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule with Professor Vladimir Prelog. His professor is deeply influenced his thoughts and philosophy towards science.

Har Gobind Khorana Marriage

Har Gobind Khorana with married Esther Elizabeth Sibler who was of the Swiss origin in 1952. The couple had three children. Unfortunately one of their daughters died in 1979. They remained happily married till Esther’s death.


Hargobind Khorana received a job offer from the Dr. Gordon M Shrum of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in 1952. Hargobind Khorana accepted even though the British Columbia Research Council did not offer many facilities for research.

Dr. Shrum was a very inspiring man and Khurana could engage in whatever research he wanted to conduct under him. Along with a group of other researchers, Har Gobind Khorana  began to work in the field of phosphate esters and nucleic acids.

Har Gobind Khorana
Image Source : Google

In year 1960, he accepted a position at the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin.

During the year 1960 Hargobind Khorana delveloped deeper into his experiments in nucleic acids found in RNA, a chemical that translates the genetic information contained in DNA. RNA is composed of four chemical bases represented by the letters A, C, U, and G.

Using the  chemical synthesis to combine the chemical bases, Hargobind Khorana deduced that the code for serine was UCU and for leucine it was CUC. Hargobind Khorana showed that the genetic code consisted of 64 distinct three-letter words.

Biochemist Marshall W. Nirenberg had independently been working on genetics and Khorana confirmed the former’s findings that four different types of nucleotides are arranged on the spiral staircase of the DNA molecule.

Hargobind Khorana  proved that the nucleotide code is transmitted in groups of three called codons to the cells. Some codons are responsible for signaling to the cells to start or stop the manufacture of proteins.

Hargobind Khorana  became the Alfred Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1970 and remained there till his retirement in 2007.

Har Gobind Khorana  was successful in the constructing the first ever artificial gene in 1972. A few years later he made the artificial gene function in a bacteria cell. Genetic engineering has been made possible only due to the ability to synthesize DNA.

During his later years he experimented on the molecular mechanisms underlying the cell signaling pathways of vision in vertebrates. Hargobind Khorana primarily studied the structure and function of rhodospin a light sensitive protein found in the eye.

Har Gobind Khorana Inventions

Har Gobind Khorana
Image Source : Google

These are various researches or inventions by the Hargobind Khorana. Here is Follows –

Research work

In the 1950s, Har Gobind Khorana  was established that genetic information is transferred from DNA to RNA, to protein. One sequence of three nucleotides in DNA corresponds to a certain amino acid within a protein. How could this genetic code be cracked. After Marshall Nirenberg discovered the first piece of the puzzle, the remainder of the code was gradually revealed in the years that followed.

Har Gobind Khorana made important contributions to this field by building different RNA chains with the help of the enzymes. Using these enzymes, he was able to produce proteins. The amino acid sequences of these proteins then solved the rest of the puzzle.

Subsequent Research

Har Gobind Khorana  extended the above to long DNA polymers using non-aqueous chemistry and assembled these into the first synthetic gene, using polymerase and ligase enzymes that link pieces of DNA together, as well as methods that anticipated the invention of PCR. These custom-designed pieces of artificial genes are widely used in biology labs for sequencing, cloning and engineering new plants and animals, and are integral to the expanding use of DNA analysis to understand gene-based human disease as well as human evolution.

Har gobind Khorana  invention have become automated and commercialized so that anyone now can order a synthetic gene from any of a number of companies. One merely needs to send the genetic sequence to one of the companies to receive an oligonucleotide with the desired sequence.

Since the middle of the 1970s, Har Gobind Khorana lab has studied the biochemistry of bacteriorhodopsin, a membrane protein that converts light energy into chemical energy by creating a proton gradient. Later, his lab went on to study the structurally related visual pigment known as rhodopsina.

Har Gobind Khorana famous for ?

Har Gobind Khorana
Image Source : Google

Har Gobind Khorana (9 January 1922 – 9 November 2011), was an Indian American biochemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that the showed how the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell’s synthesis of proteins. Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in the same year.

Har Gobind Khorana Major Works

Har Gobind Khorana was a world renowned biochemist famous for his work in the field of genetics and DNA. Har Gobind Khorana was the first person to demonstrate the role of nucleotides in protein synthesis.

 Har Gobind Khorana Awards

These are various Awards of the Har Gobind Khorana. Here is Follows –

  1. In year 1968, Hargobind Khorana Awarded Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine
  2. In year 1968, Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University
  3. In year 1969, The Padma Vibhushan Award (i.e. The second highest civilian award in the Republic of India).
  4. In year 1974, Willard Gibbs Award.

Har Gobind Khorana Facts

Har Gobind Khorana
Image Source : Google
  1. On Hargobind Khorana 96th Birth anniversary, Google was honoured him with a doodle.
  2. Har Gobind Khorana wife Esther Elizabeth Sibler was Swiss.
  3. For his contribution, Hargobind Khorana was awarded numerous domestic and international awards including the Willard Gibbs Award in the year 1974.
  4. Hargobind Khorana Father Taught Him to Read & Write, Which Was not Norm in His Village.
  5. Har Gobind Khorana Won the Nobel Prize After Discovering Key Information About Cells.
  6. Har Gobind Khorana Developed the First Synthetic Gene & Won Many Awards.
  7. Hargobind Khorana Wife Brought ‘Consistent Purpose’ to His Life.
  8. Hargobind Khorana Spent time in India, England, Switzerland & America.


Har Gobind Khorana was died on the 9 November 2011, in Concord, Massachusetts, at the age of 89. His wife, Esther, and daughter, Emily Anne, had died earlier, but Khurana was survived by his other two children. Julia later wrote about his work as a professor. “Even while doing all this research, Hargobind Khorana was always really interested in education, in students and young people.”

The Washington Post provided this summary of the man: “Dr. Har Gobind Khorana was known for a modest, ingratiating manner. Hargobind Khorana tended to shun publicity, making many of his most important scientific announcements at departmental seminars and in scientific publications”.

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