Severo Ochoa, a biochemist who won the 1959 Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology for discoveries that furthered research on heredity, has died at age 88.
He died Monday night of pneumonia, hospital officials said. He had been hospitalized in Madrid after suffering a stroke six months ago.
Ochoa, a naturalized American citizen, was on the faculty of New York University for more than four decades before retiring in 1986. He shared the Nobel Prize with Stanford University biochemist Arthur Kornberg.
"It's an extraordinary loss for . . . many Spanish scientists, young and old, who found in him a reference point that guided their work in both basic and applied research," Education and Science Minister Gustavo Suarez told Spanish National Radio.
Ochoa moved to the United States in 1941, working for a year at the medical school of Washington University in St. Louis before joining the staff of the New York University School of Medicine as a research assistant.
He became a full professor in 1946 and served as chairman of the biochemistry department from 1954 to 1976. He became a professor emeritus in 1986.
His work helped scientists understand how hereditary information contained in the genes is transmitted. Ochoa synthesized ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which transmits the genetic information encoded in DNA and is important in the creation of proteins in the cell.
Ochoa was a member of the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, N.J., from 1976 to 1985.
He received a medical degree in Madrid in 1929 and also studied at universities in Glasgow, Scotland; Heidelberg, Germany, and Berlin. He left Madrid at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and continued his research in Heidelberg and at Oxford University Medical School.
He became honorary director of Madrid's Molecular Biology Institute in 1985.