Marshall Warren Nirenberg (April 10, 1927 - January 15, 2010) was an American biochemist and geneticist. He shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 with Har Gobind Khorana and Robert Holley for "breaking the genetic code" and describing how it operates in protein synthesis. The period between 1961 and 1962 is often referred to as the "coding race" because of the competition between the labs of Nirenberg at NIH and Nobel laureate Severo Ochoa at New York University Medical School. Faced with the possibility of helping the first NIH scientist win a Nobel prize, many NIH scientists put aside their own work to help Nirenberg in deciphering the mRNA codons for amino acids. Nirenberg was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1964 and the National Medal of Honor in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He died in 2010, from cancer after several months of illness, at the age of 82.