Birth Date: 29 January, 1947
Place of Birth: Seattle, USA
Nationality: American
Occupation/Field of Study American physician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2004.


KEYWORDS: Nobel Prize, Medicine, Physiology, USA, Odorant Receptors, Columbia University, Harvard University.


Linda B. Buck and Richard Axel jointly won the Nobel Prize “for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system”1.



American researcher Linda B. Buck was born in 1947 in Seattle, Washington. Buck, the second of three children, grew up in a supporting family that also taught her to appreciate music and solve puzzles. She loved spending time with her maternal Swedish grandmother, who showed her how to sew clothes2.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and microbiology in 1975 from the University of Washington and a PhD in immunology in 1980 from the University of Texas Medical Center3. It was during her post-doctoral studies at Columbia University that she joined Prof. Richard Axel in studying the Aplysia’s sea snail neurons. Sol Snyder’s 1985 research paper on odour detection spiked her curiosity and three years later she started researching on odorant receptors in rats at Axel’s laboratory2. In 1991, they published in a paper on their discovery of hundreds of genes that activate in the noses of rats while smelling⁴.

Buck started working at Harvard Medical School (in the Neurobiology Department) the same year and continued to research the olfactory system over the course of the next decade. Her Nobel Prize winning findings unveiled the mystery of smell process (olfactory system) in mammals2.

Upon returning to Seattle in 2002, she was appointed  Affiliate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington and member of the Division of Basic Sciences at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where she is still working today, in the “Buck” lab. The team’s progress on understanding the odour and taste perceptions and their interconnectedness with instinctive responses could lead, to such practical applications as (among others) the development of better drugs for cancer patients⁵.

She met scientist Roger Brent in 1994 and the couple married in 20062.



Linda B. Buck’s career has been intrinsically linked with Richard Axel’s.

New Yorker Richard Axel (1946), the son of Polish immigrants, attended John Hopkins University School of Medicine and became professor of Pathology and Biochemistry at Columbia University in 1978. Since 1984, he has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, part of Columbia University. Buck, who was his post-doctoral student, says she appreciated the independence that Axel gave to his researchers, trusting them even when they wandered off the beaten path2.

In 1988, Buck and Axel started looking for odorant receptors in rats and the findings three years later were astonishing: there are hundreds of receptors and not two are the same2.

Buck then joined Harvard Medical School, where she started her own lab with a positive reaction, unlike the efforts of her female Nobel predecessors2.

She established a good relationship with chairman Gerry Fischbach and colleagues David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel, both Nobel laureates in 1981, who she later praised2.

Collaboration and teamwork have been essential parts of Buck’s professional code: she continues to publish many joint papers nowadays, mostly with members of her lab⁷.



“As a woman in science, I sincerely hope that my receiving a Nobel Prize will send a message to young women everywhere that the doors are open to them and that they should follow their dreams.”

cited in “Linda B. Buck – Biographical”, <> (last accessed 2 Jun. 2016)



1992: McKnight Scholar Award from The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience

1992: The Takasago Award for Research in Olfaction

1992: The LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Science for Art Prize

1992: Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship Award

1992: The Sense of Smell Award from The Fragrance Foundation

1993: John Merck Scholarship in the Biology of Developmental Disabilities in Children

1995: The 1995 Distinguished Alumnus, Graduate School, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

1996: The Unilever Science Award, with Richard Axel

1996: The R.H. Wright Award in Olfactory Research

1996: The Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award with Richard Axel and A. James Hudspeth “for establishing the molecular basis of the senses of smell and hearing”6

2000: Senior Scholar Award in Aging from The Ellison Medical Foundation

2002: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

2003: The Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize, with Richard Axel

2003: Member of the National Academy of Sciences

2003: Canada Gairdner Foundation International Award

2004: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

2005: Golden Plate Award, The Academy of Achievement 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Washington

2005: Brava Award from Women’s University Club

2006: The International Hall of Fame, International Women’s Forum

2006: Alumna Summa Laude Dignata, University of Washington

2006: Elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine

2007: The Medal of Merit from State of Washington

2008: Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

2009: Elected Member of the European Academy of Sciences

2011: Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Rockefeller University 2015 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Harvard University

2015: Doctor of Science, honoris causa, University College London 2015 Elected Foreign Member, The Royal Society



“Nobel Minds” (2004), Sveriges Television AB and BBC World (prods.),, <> (last accessed 2 Jun. 2016).



The following is a selection7 of Linda B. Buck’s most important works:

with Axel Richard, (1991), “A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: a molecular basis for odor recognition”,  Cell, 65, 175-187.

with J Ngai / MM Dowling / R Axel / A Chess (1993),  “The family of genes encoding odorant receptors in the channel catfish”, Cell, 72, 657-666.

with KJ Ressler / SL Sullivan (1993) “A zonal organization of odorant receptor gene expression in the olfactory epithelium”, Cell, 73, 597-609.

with KJ Ressler / SL Sullivan (1994), “Information coding in the olfactory system: evidence for a stereotyped and highly organized epitope map in the olfactory bulb”, Cell, 79, 245-1255.

”Information coding in the mammalian olfactory system” (1996), Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol., 61, 147-155.

with B Malnic /  J Hirono / T Sato (1999), “Combinatorial receptor codes for odors”, Cell, 96, 713-723.

“Smell and taste: the chemical senses” (2000), Principles of Neural Science, E. R. Kandel, J. H. Schwartz, and T. M. Jessell, eds. New York, McGraw-Hill, pp. 625-652.

with B Malnic / PA Godfrey (2004), “The human olfactory receptor gene family”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA, 101, 2584-2589.

with LF Horowitz / LR Saraiva / D Kuang / KH Yoon (2014), “Olfactory receptor patterning in a higher primate”, J. Neurosci, 34, 12241-12252.

with K Kondoh / L Lu / X Ye / DP Olson / BB Lowell (2016), “A specific area of olfactory cortex involved in stress hormone responses to predator odours”, Nature, 532, 103-106.


Badge, Peter (2008), Nobel Faces: A Gallery of Nobel Prize Winners, Berlin, Wiley-VCH.


“CURRICULUM VITAE” (2016), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,  <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).


“Linda B. Buck – Curriculum Vitae” (2014),, Nobel Media AB, <> (last accessed 2 Jun. 2016).


Mead, Wendy (10 Nov. 2014), “Linda B. Buck Biography”,, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).


“Nobel Laureates 2004 – Physiology or Medicine”,, Nobel Media, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).


The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2010), “Linda B. Buck”, Encyclopædia Britannica, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).



  1. “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2004” (2014),, Nobel Media AB, <> (last accessed 9 Feb. 2017).
  2. “Linda B. Buck -Biographical” (2014),, Nobel Media AB,   <> (last accessed 2 Jun. 2016).
  3. Linda B. Buck, “Curriculum Vitae”, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).
  4. Woodward, A. (2004), “Linda Buck Biography”, Encyclopedia of World Biography, <> (last accessed 21 Feb. 2017).
  5. “Impact of Dr. Buck’s Work”, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, <> (last accessed 21 Feb. 2017).
  6. “Past winner”, Rosentiel Medical Science Research Centre,  Brandeis University, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).
  7. “Selected Publications”, Member of Basic Sciences Linda Buck Lab, Fred Hutchinson  Cancer Research Center, <> (last accessed 6 Jun. 2016).


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