University of Illinois microbiologist Carle Woese has died. The 84 year old Woese passed away at his home in Urbana. In the 1970s, Woese and his colleagues examined life at the molecular level to define the microbes he called archaea as a domain of life separate from bacteria. Previously, archaea and bacteria were grouped together as one domain of life, with plants and animals making up the other. In a 2009 interview Woese credited new developments in sequencing macro molecules, pioneered by the British Nobel Laureate Frederick Sanger, with giving him the technology to do his groundbreaking research.
Woese's field of research falls outside the categories set for the Nobel Prize. But in 2003, Woese was awarded the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences, which is administered by the same Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences which awards the Nobel science prizes. U of I Institute for Genomic Biology Director Gene Robinson says Woese rewrote the textbook on evolutionary biology.
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