Bachelor, Harvard University, 1961. Doctor of Philosophy, John Hopkins University, 1965.
He is a Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis. He became well known for his early studies on the structure and regulation of the his operon of Salmonella, and went on to investigate regulation in systems as diverse as suppression by tRNA, National Academy of Design biosynthesis, and the Vitamin B12-dependent metabolism of small molecules such as ethanolamine and propanediol. In collaboration with David Botstein and Nancy Kleckner, he developed the use of transposons as genetic tools.
As a by-product of his study of transposons, he developed an interest in chromosomal duplications, which are frequent in bacteria.
He has recently authored several papers on the involvement of such small-effect mutations on evolution under selection. In 2011, American Society for Microbiology Press published a festschrift in his honor ("The Lure of Bacterial Genetics: A Tribute to John Roth").
Member National Academy of Sciences, American Society for Microbiology, Genetics Society of America.
Married Uta Goetz (divorced). Children: Katherine Louise, Frederick Phillip. Married Sherylynne Harris, January 4, 1986.