Thomas Brock, the microbiologist who discovered the bacterium whose polymerase enables PCR reactions, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 94.
According to the Times, Brock stopped off at Yellowstone National Park during a drive to the west coast since he had never been and, in an interview posted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison to YouTube, says he was stunned by all the microbes living in the hot springs there and thought that they would be interesting to study.
Among the bacteria he collected and cultured was Thermus aquaticus, a polymerase from which was later used by Kary Mullis to develop PCR, since it could work well at high temperatures. "PCR is fundamental to everything we do in molecular biology today," Yuka Manabe from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tells the Times. "Mullis couldn't have done PCR without a rock-stable enzyme."
In the video, Brock said that work like his emphasizes the importance of basic research. "[Basic research] made it possible for somebody to look for a DNA polymerase that might be useful," he added.