He was born in 1928 at New York. He did his bachelor’s in mathematics and physics at Amherst College and Ph.D. in biophysics at university of Yale. Later he joined the staff of University of Illinoise where he still works.
Though he is a physicist by training he has contributed a lot as a microbiologist. He described the Domain Archaea based on phylogenetic taxonomy of 16S ribosomal RNA and introduced the three domain classification in 1977.
His major publication is his 1967’s work The Genetic Code: the Molecular basis for Genetic Expression.
He was awarded by the Leeuwenhoek medal (the world’s highest award in microbiology. Awarded once in 10 years by Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) in 1992.