U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Carl Woese Awarded Crafoord Prize in Stockholm
Published: October 08, 2003
Posted: October 17, 2003

On September 24, the King of Sweden, on behalf of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, presented the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences (along with $500,000) to microbiologist Carl R. Woese of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The prize marks accomplishments in scientific fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes in science, which the academy also selects. Woese changed the way scientists classify life on Earth by his discovery of the archaea in 1977 in collaboration with University of Illinois microbiologist Ralph S. Wolfe. Prior to that time, biologists had taken for granted that all life on Earth belonged to one of two primary lineages, the eukaryotes (which include animals, plants, fungi and certain unicellular organisms such as paramecia) and the prokaryotes (all remaining microscopic organisms). Woese and Wolfe showed that there are three primary lineages. The new group of organisms  the archaea (pronounced ARE-kee-uh)  is very simple in its genetic makeup and tends to exist in "extreme" environments, niches devoid of oxygen and whose temperatures can be near or above the normal boiling point of water, conditions thought to represent the early environment on Earth. In 1996, Craig Venter then of the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) determined the genome sequence of the first archaeon (under a grant from the Department of Energy) which dramatically demonstrated the reality of Woese's view.

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-72, 301-903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Cross-Cutting: Lectures, Awards, and Recognition

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-72 Life Sciences Division, OBER)


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