I remember learning that the inventor of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was Kary Mullis, who was awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1993. I recently learned that there is some controversy about this due to the fact that his idea may not have been entirely original.

The first actual written description of it was a 1971 paper by Norwegian biochemist Kjell Kleppe. IIRC the paper was theoretical and didn't have any experimental demonstration of DNA amplification. Part of the problem was that it wouldn't be until 1976 that the Taq polymerase enzyme was isolated which is used in the PCR. So Mullis seems to have proven experimentally that Kleppe's idea worked. He also was able to optimize the process using thermal cycling and make use of the heat stable Taq polymerase enzyme.

Part of what led me to doubt Mullis' claims was this article about the PCR story.

Who actually invented PCR?

  • $\begingroup$ Just about any 'invention' has various predecessors. Making it actually work is the hard bit. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 12, 2022 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ Please provide full references. All non-persistent links will eventually be broken. $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2022 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ If no one answers here within a month: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2022 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ @RodrigodeAzevedo I posted this in biology and they suggested deleting it and posting it here. I could try the Chemistry stack exchange and post references. $\endgroup$
    – Mr X
    Apr 13, 2022 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Wait a week. If no one provides a good answer, re-post at Chem SE with crosslinks. $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2022 at 20:03


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