‘Unconventional’ Nobel laureate Kary Mullis, known for revolutionizing DNA research, has died

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Kary Mullis, who shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry for devising a technique vital in DNA research and technology, and who appeared to be one of the most unconventional winners of the award, died Aug. 7 in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 74.

The technique for which Dr. Mullis shared the Nobel in 1993 was known as polymerase chain reaction, called PCR for short, and it enabled scientists to make millions or billions of copies of a single tiny segment of the DNA molecule.

Often described as a major milestone of 20th-century biochemistry and molecular biology, the PCR technique opened the way for a wide variety of studies and applications of DNA, the celebrated molecule that lies at the foundations of life.

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Widely acknowledged for its significance, PCR not only rewarded Dr. Mullis with the most coveted prize in science, but it provided a platform that he bestrode with relish for his free-spirited, often quirky ideas and lifestyle.

A fount of ideas sufficiently offbeat to make fellow scientists frown, he seemed skeptical of much conventional wisdom, including theories that were widely held in science. Doubts about whether climate change was man-made, or whether HIV caused AIDS, helped make him seem an outlier in the scientific establishment.

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