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1975 Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, a biologist who has made immense contributions in virology, cancer research, recombinant cell biology, and scientific institution-building, was born in New York on this date in 1938. In 1970, Baltimore discovered reverse transcription, the process by which tumor viruses and other retroviruses (such as HIV) infiltrate healthy cells in order to replicate. Baltimore served as president of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 1997 to 2006, as president of Rockefeller University from 1990 to 1991, and as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. His reputation was tarnished in 1989 when a scientist working under his supervision was called out for falsifying results by a whistleblower, and Baltimore failed to take the charges seriously. The contretemps was settled with his public apology, however, and he remained, and remains, a powerful influence on biological science and research policy in America.
“We derive much of our pleasure as biologists from the continuing realization of how economical, elegant and intelligent are the accidents of evolution that have been maintained by selection.” —David Baltimore, Nobel address [PDF]