From biochemistry to forensics, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a staple procedure in multiple scientific fields. PCR allows for the amplification of specific DNA regions using thermal cycling. This method is used in various applications such as DNA (paternity) testing, disease diagnosis, and genetic sequencing (Saiki et al. 1988). The development and optimization of this technique revolutionized biological research and remains just as relevant now as it was then (Bartlett and Stirling, 2003). While the development of PCR has been a collaborative effort where ideas continue to be built upon one another, there is one man in particular to thank for his creative contributions to this technique: Kary Mullis.
Born in 1944, Mullis grew up in North and South Carolina where he attended high school and found his knack for chemistry (Shmaefsky, 2006). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology, followed by a PhD in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkley (Autobiography, 1998). At first, Mullis strayed from a scientific career. After receiving his PhD, he went on to write fiction and continued exploring other careers as he managed a bakery for two years (Yoffe, 1994). Eventually, he wound up at the biotechnology company Cetus Corporation (Shmaefsky, 2006). It was here that he came up with ideas on how to improve the polymerase chain reaction, thus revolutionizing the field of genetics.
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Shmaefsky, B. 2006. Biotechnology 101. Google. ISBN 978-0-313-33528-0.
Yoffe, E. 1994. Is Kary Mullis God? Nobel Prize winner's new life. Esquire. 122 (1): 68-75.