Kary Mullis won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a way to copy a strand of DNA. (His technique, called PCR, jump-started the 1990s' biorevolution.) He's known for his wide-ranging interests — and strong opinions.

Why you should listen

In the early 1980s, Kary Mullis developed the polymerase chain reaction, an elegant way to make copies of a DNA strand using the enzyme polymerase and some basic DNA "building blocks." The process opened the door to more in-depth study of DNA -- like the Human Genome Project. Mullis shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing this technique.

As he tells it, after winning the Nobel Prize, his next career move was to learn how to surf. It's typical of Mullis, whose scientific method is to get deeply curious about a topic, work it out from first principles, and then imagine the next giant leap forward. As he puts it in his Nobel autobiography, revised several times since 1993, "I read a lot, and think a lot, and I can talk about almost anything. Being a Nobel laureate is a license to be an expert in lots of things as long as you do your homework."

Most recently, he's been taking a hard look at immunity; a recent patent from his company Altermune describes the redirection of an existing immune response to a new pathogen.

Kary Mullis’ TED talks

Kary Mullis on the TED Blog

The week in comments

July 11, 2009

This week featured strong talks and we’ve found some equally strong comments to go with them. From touching reactions on Sophal Ear’s escape with his family from the Khmer Rouge to amazement at Kary Mullis’ strikingly deft cure for killer infections and appreciation for Eames Demetrios’ sentimental portrait of his legendary designer grandparents. Here they […]

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A next-gen cure for killer infection: Kary Mullis on TED.com

July 9, 2009

Drug-resistant bacteria kills, even in top hospitals. But now tough infections like staph and anthrax may be in for a surprise. Nobel-winning chemist Kary Mullis, who watched a friend die when powerful antibiotics failed, unveils a radical new cure that shows extraordinary promise. (Recorded at TED 2009, February 2009 in Long Beach, California. Duration: 4:35) […]

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Celebrating the scientific experiment: Kary Mullis on TED.com

January 5, 2009

Nobel-winning biochemist Kary Mullis talks about the basis of modern science: the experiment. Sharing tales from the 17th century and from his own backyard-rocketry days, Mullis celebrates the curiosity, inspiration and rigor of good science in all its forms. Filled with insights and a few thought-provoking “heresies” (listen for Mullis’ take on global warming), this […]

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Quotes from Kary Mullis

The planet is a pretty amazing thing, it’s big and horrible, and big and wonderful, and it does all kinds of things we don’t know anything about.
Kary Mullis
TED2002 • 439K views Jan 2009
Funny, Informative