Prof. Alexander Rich

Nov 15, 1924 — Apr 27, 2015

Alexander Rich was a biologist and biophysicist. He was the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at MIT (since 1958) and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rich earned both an A.B. (magna cum laude) and an M.D. (cum laude) from Harvard University. He was a post-doc of Linus Pauling along with James Watson. During this time he was a member of the RNA Tie Club, a social and discussion group which attacked the question of how DNA encodes genetics. He had over 600 publications to his name.

Rich was married to Jane King and is survived by four children: Benjamin, Josiah, Rebecca, and Jessica Rich Sturley.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Rich was the founder of Alkermes and was a director beginning in 1987. Dr. Rich was Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Repligen Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company. He was also a member of the Board of Directors for Profectus BioSciences, Inc. He also served on the editorial board of Genomics and the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics.

In 1963, Rich discovered polysomes: clusters of ribosomes which read one strand of mRNA simultaneously.

In 1979, Rich and co-workers at MIT grew a crystal of Z-DNA. This was the first crystal structure of any form of DNA. After 26 years of attempts, Rich et al. finally crystallised the junction box of B- and Z-DNA. Their results were published in an October 2005 Nature journal. Whenever Z-DNA forms, there must be two junction boxes that allow the flip back to the canonical B-form of DNA.

Alexander Rich was a longtime member of the Weizmann Institute’s Board. He served on the Board of Governors from 1976 to 2008, served a various committees, was a member of the Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee from 1976 to 2003, chairing it from 1988 to 1994, and was appointed a Life Member of the Institute’s International Board in 2008, a duty he fulfilled until he passed away.

Rich is survived by his wife, Jane; two sons, Josiah and Benjamin; two daughters, Jessica and Rebecca; and seven grandchildren: Abigail, Rachel, Abraham, Nola, Nicholas, Cyrus, and Zachary.