Nathans College

Photograph of Daniel Nathans

Welcome to the Daniel Nathans College!
Learn about the faculty leaders in Nathans College by reading their faculty biographies.

About The Namesake

The name Daniel Nathans recalls different memories for different people. Friends remember Dr. Nathans as a soft-spoken and gentle person, colleagues remember him as a caring mentor who was as concerned for others’ academic development as his own, and the world remembers him as a renowned scientist who paved the way for a new generation of molecular biology and medicine.

Born in 1928, Dr. Daniel Nathans was the ninth and youngest child of Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He grew up during the Great Depression and attended the University of Delaware, where he studied chemistry, philosophy, and literature. His strong interest in the natural sciences led him to pursue a medical education at Washington University in St. Louis. During his training, a summer research experience convinced him that a career in medical research and teaching suited him best. Upon receiving an MD degree, Dr. Nathans continued with his residency training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and his post-doctoral research at the National Institutes of Health.

In 1962, Dr. Nathans joined Hopkins as a faculty member, and single-handedly founded the “Division of Genetics,” now known as the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. For the rest of his career, Dr. Nathans devoted more than three decades to science and teaching. He achieved many prestigious awards, including the national Medal of Science in 1993; the title of Howard Hughes Medical Investigator; and the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his work on restriction enzymes with his colleague, Hamilton Smith.

Our college was named after Dr. Nathans to honor the value of combining the powers of science and medicine. Dr. Nathans once said, “I was always confident that, in the long run, the study of basic genetic mechanisms would contribute to the well-being of people everywhere." Indeed, his discovery of restriction enzymes was a major scientific breakthrough that has since opened the doors to numerous other discoveries in biology, to a better understanding of disease, and to new and more effective therapies.

Our college values are represented on our crest by a DNA helix and a stalk of wheat. The helix symbolizes the profound impact our namesake, Daniel Nathans, had on the practice of medicine through his discovery of restriction enzymes, a fundamental tool in modern genetics. More generally, it symbolizes the key role research plays in the advancement of medicine. The wheat portrayed on our crest is the substance in which Dr. Nathans first isolated restriction enzymes. It represents the reciprocal relationship between science and the world. As the earth provides for us, so too must our responsibilities as physicians be globally directed; to its citizens, to care for the health and well-being of all people, and to make a global impact as both leaders in our profession and as mentors to future generations. As we honor the Nathan’s crest, we also honor the Nathans College’s motto, Vivant, Crescant, Floreant which means Live, Grow, Thrive.

Dr. Daniel Nathans is an inspiration to us all. As we continue our journeys in medicine, let him be a reminder to seek excellence of care through knowledge.