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Avery, Oswald (Theodore)

dna bacteria virulent smooth

ay veree] (1877–1955) US bacteriologist: showed that the genetic material of bacterial chromosomes is DNA.

Born in Canada, Avery went to New York when he was 10 and remained there for his working life; he qualified in medicine at Columbia in 1904, and from 1913 researched in bacteriology at the Rockefeller Institute Hospital. His special interest was pneumococci (the bacteria causing pneumonia). In 1928 he was intrigued by the claim of the British microbiologist F Griffith (1881–1941) that a non-virulent, ‘rough’ (ie unencapsulated) pneumococcus could be transformed into the virulent, smooth (capsulated) form in the mouse by the mere presence of some of the dead (heat-killed) smooth bacteria.

Avery found this so strange that he repeated the work, and also showed in 1944 that the substance that caused the transformation is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Prudently, he did not go on to surmise that genes are simply DNA, which was surprising enough to be accepted only slowly after 1950 and formed the basic idea of molecular biology.

Avidom (real name, Kalkstein), Menahem [next] [back] Aversive Racism - SUBTLE BIAS, COMBATING

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