Article 2. Norman Simmons
Norman Simmons, 88, Was Nobel Prize Nominee
Dr. Norman Simmons, UCLA Professor Emeritus, was nominated, in 1972 for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The nomination concerned the "Conformation dependent optically active electronic transitions (Cotton effects) in proteins and polypeptides." This work in protein structural analysis was said to be "profound, widespread, and continuing in providing a stimulus and methodology for the direct investigation and understanding of structure-function relationships in macromolecules of great bio-medical interest."
Nobel Prize nominee and DNA research pioneer, Dr. Norman Simmons, UCLA Professor Emeritus, died Tuesday January 27, in Los Angeles, CA. He was eighty-eight. A world leader in biomedical research, in 1952 Dr. Simmons was the first to isolate pure, undamaged deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It was Simmons' DNA that was used by Rosalind Franklin to create the x-ray photographs used by Watson, Crick, and Wilkins to determine the structure of DNA. When Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won a Nobel Prize for determining the structure of DNA, Wilkins stated: "I wish to thank Norman Simmons for having refined techniques of isolating DNA, and thereby helping a great many workers including ourselves."
Born in New York City, May 28, 1915, Simmons received his Bachelor of Science Degree from College of the City of New York in 1935, a Doctor of Medical Dentistry, Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard University in 1939, and his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Rochester in 1950. His PhD research and thesis "Investigation of Submaxillary Mucoid and the Defense Mechanisms of the Mouth," was revolutionary and ground breaking.
While working on his doctorate in Experimental Pathology and Biochemistry, Simmons sculptures and paintings were prominently displayed in the Finger Lakes Exhibit at the Rochester Museum of Art.
Dr. Simmons accepted an appointment at the UCLA AEC Laboratories in 1950 where he helped found the newly emerging UCLA medical center. It was in a small make-shift laboratory in a temporary wooden barracks that Simmons first developed the techniques and concepts that were widely used in DNA studies for the next fifteen years. Dr. Simmons served simultaneously as Professor of Biophysics and Nuclear Medicine, and Professor of Oral Medicine at UCLA.
Dr. Simmons moved on to the study of Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) and its constituents. Simmons was drawn to TMV because it was pure RNA (Ribonucleic Acid). He developed new techniques of virus isolation and study that provided stimulus for a number of important reviews and discussions on the architecture of viruses in general.
Continuing his study of macromolecules while reaching back to his education in dentistry, Dr. Simmons moved on to the work that brought him the Nobel Prize nomination. This work in protein structural analysis made significant contributions to today's understanding of the calcification of tooth enamel.
Dr. Simmons won many awards for his major contributions in science, but he also found time to join the Pacific Palisade Players --- a theater group for which he was both an actor and a musician. He enjoyed writing and performing songs while accompanying himself on the piano. He was a bogie golfer, and an accomplished chef.
Norman Simmons is survived by his wife of 30-years, Jewell, two sons, Dr. Steven M. Simmons of Spokane, WA, and Peter J. Simmons of Newbury, MA, and a step-daughter, Melissa Sanders, of Burbank, CA. Dr. Simmons has three granddaughters and one great grandson.