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Werner Arber, born 1929, obtained his academic education in natural sciences at the ETH in Zürich and at the University of Geneva. After postdoctoral work in the USA he returned in 1960 as research associate to the University of Geneva where he later became promoted to associate professor. In 1970-1971 he spent one year as a research professor at the University of California in Berkeley before taking a full professorship for molecular microbiology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. From 1986-1988 he was rector of the University of Basel. He retired in 1996. His scientific activities concern microbial genetics, molecular genetics and biotechnology and more specifically, bacteriophage genetics and lysogeny, phage-mediated transduction, bacterial restriction and modification systems, site-specific recombination, transposition of mobile genetic elements, molecular mechanisms of genetic variation and molecular evolution.
In 1978 Werner Arber was honored with the "Nobel Prize" in Medicine for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics. He also received several honorary doctoral degrees and he is either member or honorary member of a number of scientific academies and societies, such as EMBO, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Academia Europea, the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology, the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Spanish Academy of Engineering, the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences, the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences.
Werner Arber also devoted part of his activities to national and international science politics. Among others, he was for 11 years member and vice-president of the Swiss Science Council. From 1996 to 1999 he was president of the International Council for Science (ICSU). In all of his activities he promoted broad interdisciplinary collaboration on the basis of scientific excellence of the involved partners.