PCR was invented by Nobel laureate Cary Banks Mullis, an American chemist, who was born on December 28, 1944, in Lenoir, North Carolina.
He was raised in Columbia, South Carolina and received a degree in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1966 he moved to California to study biochemistry, and in 1971 he earned his doctorate in the specialty at the University of Berkeley.
Although Mullis became a prominent representative of the scientific community, he was also involved in occasional controversy. As head of the DNA synthesis lab at Cetus Corporation, one of the first biotech companies in California, Mullis earned a reputation for his erratic behavior.
He was also involved in a few fights with his then-girlfriend, who was a co-worker at the same time, and almost came to blows with another co-worker during a company party.
It was in 1983 when he was working in the said corporation, when he got the PCR technology. The idea came to mind while driving with my girlfriend through the mountains of Northern California.
In theory, the idea of making millions of copies of a single piece of DNA quickly and easily was simple and had immense potential. However, the technical barriers to achieving this were many.
Banks Mullis used a thermostable polymerase called Tag at high temperature to make copies of the DNA. Ultimately, it was his two colleagues who succeeded in the autumn of 1985 in isolating the DNA of TAG polymerase.
In 1989, the PCR process and the DNA polymerase enzyme were named Molecule of the Year by Science magazine. Without the technique for which Mullis won the Chemistry Prize in 1993, genomics would not exist.
Carrie Banks Mullis was very eccentric and that revealed itself when she told how her recently deceased grandfather had appeared to her not once but several times in 1986.
Likewise, he was a defender of conspiracy theories, denying the existence of climate change and black holes in the ozone layer, even saying that they were media campaigns aimed at favoring certain regions.
On various occasions, he admitted to being a fervent critic of HIV, saying that it did not exist and was no longer an invention of drug companies.
By 1998 Mullis published his autobiography Dancing Naked in the Field of the Mind, where he displayed his provocative character and his position away from orthodoxy in science.
He died of pneumonia on August 7, 2019, at his home in California.