Holliday, Robin (1932-), a British geneticist, proposed the first widely accepted model of recombination between DNA molecules. He is also widely known for his research on aging.
Born in British-mandate Palestine, Holliday was educated at the Hitchin Grammar School in Hertfordshire and at Cambridge University, where he earned both B.A. and Ph.D. degrees. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 1962. In 1964, he proposed the Holliday Model of Genetic Recombination, at the core of which is a configuration of paired DNA molecules known as the Holliday structure. In 1976, David Dressler and Hunt Potter published the results of a series of experiments that demonstrated the validity of the Holliday model. Although the model's basic features are well established, it does not fully account for the mechanism by which two homologous regions of DNA are paired and then nicked. It also does not explain all the observed results in different recombination systems. While the original Holliday model involves two single-strand breaks, evidence suggests that the Holliday structure might be initiated by a double-strand break or one single-strand break.
From 1958 to 1965, Holliday was a member of the scientific staff of the Department of Genetics at John Innes Institute, in Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire. He then joined the scientific staff of the division of microbiology at the National Institute for Medical Research, and from 1970 to 1988 he headed the division of genetics there. In 1988 he moved to Australia, where he became chief research scientist in the division of molecular science at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIROO), Australia's largest scientific and industrial research agency. He held that position until his retirement in 1997.
In addition to his work on genetic recombination, Holliday's more than 250 scientific papers contributed to the study of genetic repair, gene expression, and cellular aging. He also wrote several books, including The Science of Human Progress (1981), Gene, Proteins and Cellular Ageing (1986), and Understanding Ageing (1995).