Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Hamilton O. Smith Papers MS 002
MS 002  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Processing history
  • Preferred Citation note
  • Bibliography
  • Arrangement note
  • Scope and Contents note

  • Title: Hamilton O. Smith papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 002
    Contributing Institution: J. Craig Venter Institute Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 17.5 Linear feet (40 manuscript boxes)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1965-2005
    Date (inclusive): 1950-2012
    Abstract: Scientific papers of Hamilton O. Smith, microbiologist and Nobel laureate for his discovery of TypeII restriction enzymes and the sequence of its cleavage sites. He is the co-recipient of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans for the discovery of “restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics”. The papers document Smith’s professional career from his appointment at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University to his most recent position as Scientific Director of Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Materials include correspondence, laboratory and research notes, committee appointments, scientific subject files, photographs, and writings by Smith.
    creator: Smith, Hamilton O.


    This collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the J. Craig Venter Institute, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

    Processing history

    Processed by Chrystal Carpenter, 2013

    Preferred Citation note

    Hamilton O. Smith papers (MS 002), J. Craig Venter Institute.


    Hamilton Othanel Smith was born in New York City on August 23, 1931 to parents Bunnie Othanel Smith and Tommie Naomi Harkey. By 1937 he and his family relocated to Champaign-Urbana Illinois where his father joined the faculty of the Department of Education at the University of Illinois. He graduated from the University Laboratory High School in Urbana (Uni-High) in 1948 where he matriculated at the University of Illinois and transferred to University of California, Berkeley in 1950. In 1952 he received an A.B degree in mathematics from UC Berkeley. He went on to obtain his M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1956. Later that year he married Elizabeth Anne Bolton, they went on to have four sons and one daughter.
    In 1957 he was called up for the Doctor’s Draft and he spent two years with the Navy in San Diego, California. He left military service in 1959 and moved to Michigan where he continued his clinical work in medicine. In 1962 he joined the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he carried out research on Salmonella phage P22 lysogeny. In 1967 he took a position as Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Johns Hopkins University. At Hopkins his research work included the study of restriction and modification enzymes, enzymology of genetic recombination, mechanism of bacterial transformation, and genetic regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In 1968 he discovered the first TypeII restriction enzyme and showed that this enzyme cuts DNA in the middle of a specific symmetrical sequence.
    In 1975-1976, as a Guggenheim Fellow he collaborated with Max Brinstiel at the University Zurich in Switzerland on histone gene arrangement and sequence. In 1978 he, along with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He continued his successful career at Hopkins which lasted three decades, 1967-1998. During that time he studied Haemophilus Influenzae including DNA methylases and nucleases in H. influenza Rd and discovered this organism’s sequence-specific DNA uptake during genetic transformation. In 1994 he started his collaboration with J. Craig Venter at the Institute of Genomic Research (TIGR) to sequence H. influenzae by whole genome shotgun sequencing and assembly. In 1998 he retired from Johns Hopkins to join Venter at Celera Genomics Corporation where he participated in the sequencing of the Drosophila and human genomes. In 2002, he left Celera and joined the newly created J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). Smith is the Scientific Director of Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy at JCVI and has participated in the development of a synthetic version of the bacteriophage, PhiX 174 and the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.

    Arrangement note

    This collection is organized into 10 series:

    1. Biographical files, 1979-1995
    2. Correspondence, 1962-1997 (Bulk, 1980-1997)
    3. Laboratory and Research Notes, 1962-1982
    4. Conference and Committees, 1980-2007 (Bulk, 1985-1993)
    5. Subject Files, 1962-1998
    6. Johns Hopkins University Files, 1964-1997
    7. The Institute for Genomic Research / J. Craig Venter Institute Files, 1980-2010
    8. Papers and Other Works, 1967-1997
    9. Photographs, 1964-1995
    10. Writings By Others, 1952-1995

    Scope and Contents note

    This archival collection documents the scientific career of noted microbiologist and Nobel Prize winner Hamilton O. Smith from 1962 to the present. The bulk his papers represent his scientific activities from his positions at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and his three decade long career at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The papers also contain his early collaborations with J. Craig Venter from the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and his leadership role at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) from 2002 to the present. The papers largely include correspondence, laboratory and research notes, committee appointments, grant awards and research, publications and work conducted by his postdoctoral students while at JHU, as well as drafts and publications written or coauthored by him. Some materials of note include his work on restriction enzymes and research which led to his 1978 Nobel Prize while at Hopkins. As well as his more recent work with TIGR and JCVI including genome sequencing documentation (including his DNA libraries), the Haemophilus influenzae patent, and correspondence relating to Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.
    The collection is organized by topic and/or material type. The original naming conventions for the folders have been kept when ever possible. The Biographical files include curricula vitae, bibliographies, and information about Smith; the Correspondence includes incoming and outgoing correspondence from various individuals in the scientific community as well as from fans of his work, often correspondents included reprints of their work which can also be found within the correspondence series; Laboratory and research notes include research files, data, photographs, and illustrations on various scientific endeavors; Conference and Committee files include conference presentations and committee appointments; Subject files include documentation on specific scientific subjects as well as grants submitted while at JHU, materials relating to the Nobel Prize, and patent consulting; Johns Hopkins University files include budgets, committee work, postdoctoral students information and reprints, and teaching files; the Institute for Genomic Research and J. Craig Venter Institute TIGR/JCVI files include research, DNA libraries, grant applications, and sequencing projects related to his collaborations and work with TIGR/JCVI; Papers and other works include article drafts, typescripts, and reprints authored and coauthored by Smith; Photographs include images of Smith, the Nobel Prize, and research slides; Writings by others primarily includes reprints and typescript drafts collected or given to Smith by various scientists and postdoctoral students from Johns Hopkins. See scope and content note under each series listing for detailed information regarding organization.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Institute for Genomic Research.
    J. Craig Venter Institute.
    Johns Hopkins University. School of Medicine.
    Nathans, Daniel
    Venter, J. Craig
    Bacterial genomes
    DNA -- Research -- History
    Haemophilus influenzae
    History of science and technology
    Negatives (photographic)
    Nobel Prize winners
    Restriction enzymes, DNA
    Slides (photographs)
    Synthetic biology