Norman Davidson’s training as a physical chemist led him to make key early contributions to the chemistry of DNA. He described the details of DNA denaturation and renaturation, concepts that still form the basis for understanding hybridization. He also applied the single-molecule resolution of the electron microscope to describing the chemistry of circular DNA, mapping specific genes, and characterizing heteroduplexes. The latter became a dominant tool for the study of nucleic acids and contributed to our knowledge of transcription, polyadenylation, and retroviral structure. The advent of cDNA cloning and restriction enzymes enabled Davidson to describe the diversity of Drosophila actin genes and to isolate the gene encoding cAMP phosphodiesterase. Davidson then turned his attention to neuroscience and participated in cDNA cloning, oocyte expression, and structure-function studies of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, voltage-gated sodium channels, a GABA transporter, a G protein-gated potassium channel, and calcium channels. His interests also extended to synaptic plasticity, and he helped to define the role of neuronal nitric oxide synthase and of trkB receptors. His final experiments concerned the role of protein kinase A in long-term potentiation. (The abstract was written posthumously by a colleague.)


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