Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Baltimore from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

David Baltimore 1938–     Am. microbiologist


Summary Article: Baltimore, David
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US virologist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for his work with Renato Dulbecco and Howard Temin in discovering that certain viruses contain an enzyme, called reverse transcriptase, that makes deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from ribonucleic acid (RNA).

Retroviruses In 1970, Baltimore and Temin independently discovered that viruses called retroviruses, which contain their genetic information in the form of RNA, could transfer their genes into the DNA of a cell infected with the virus. Baltimore and his wife, Alice Huang, discovered that the virus that causes vesicular stomatitis reproduces itself using an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, to copy its own RNA.

This work was a surprise to the scientific community, which had accepted Francis Crick's earlier ‘central dogma’ of molecular biology. This had indicated that genetic information flows in the opposite direction, from DNA on the chromosomes into RNA, and that from RNA protein is produced in the cytoplasm of the cell.

Career Baltimore was born in New York City. He studied at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Rockefeller University in New York before being asked to join Renato Dulbecco's research team at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, in 1965 to start his work on viral genetics. In 1972 he was appointed to a staff position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he currently works as a professor.

In 1990, Baltimore was appointed president of Rockefeller University but resigned this post a year later owing to a public dispute over an alleged fraudulent research paper that he had published jointly with a colleague at MIT, although he himself was not included in any charges of misconduct.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article Baltimore, David (1938 - )
The Cambridge Dictionary of Scientists

Baltimore’s interest in physiology was initiated by his mother (a psychologist) when he was a schoolboy. However, he...

See more from Credo