Marshall W. Nirenberg, a biologist who deciphered the genetic code of life, earning a Nobel Prize for his achievement, died Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.
The cause was cancer, said his stepdaughter Susan Weissman.
In solving the genetic code, Dr. Nirenberg established the rules by which the genetic information in DNA is translated into proteins, the working parts of living cells. The code lies at the basis of life, and understanding it was a turning point in the history of biology.
Dr. Nirenberg identified the particular codons — a codon is a sequence of three chemical units of DNA — that specify each of the 20 amino acid units of which protein molecules are constructed.