Jacques Monod (1910-1976)

For Jacques Monod molecular biology was a way to piece together the puzzle explaining the mechanisms shared throughout the living world, from bacteria to complex animals. Inspired by André Lwoff, Jacques Monod worked closely with François Jacob to discover the first genetic regulation system, for which they coined the name operon. Four years after publication of the discovery the three scientists were awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize for Medicine.


Jacques Monod

At 16 years old Jacques Monod left Cannes to enroll in the College of Sciences in Paris. After graduating, he joined the laboratory of zoologist Edouard Chatton. His thesis was interrupted twice, once for an expedition to Greenland in 1934 alongside Paul-Emile Victor, and then two years later for an internship at the California Institute of Technology. When war broke out he joined the resistance, then in 1945 joined André Lwoff’s laboratory at the Institut Pasteur. In 1954 he became Head of Cellular Biochemistry and in 1971 was appointed President of the Institut Pasteur.

Very early on Jacques Monod became interested in bacterial growth, working in close partnership with François Jacob. The two scientists complemented each other exceptionally well. Later Monod worked with François Gros on messenger RNA, intermediate molecules between DNA and proteins, and on the regulatory mechanisms of enzymes.

Extract of Jacques Monod’s Nobel Prize speech

December 10, 1965 

"… The Nobel Foundation has rendered inestimable services by reminding and sometimes revealing to the people of our time the richest and profoundest concepts of their civilization.

This is the essence of the incomparable prestige of your award whose meaning and importance far exceed the very person of the laureate on whom the award is bestowed.

But although I see in my presence among you all here today, far less the sign of a personal distinction than a tribute to the ideas, ethics and esthetics of the discipline I have sought to serve, I am no less moved and deeply grateful to those who believed me worthy to attend this celebration. May I thank you for granting myself and my loved ones the joy of attending this wonderful ceremony, that in its splendor is well worthy of the extraordinary values it celebrates…"

© The Nobel Foundation 1965

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