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Hershey, Alfred (Day)

dna phage protein information

(1908–97) US biologist: demonstrated information-carrying capability of bacteriophage DNA.

A graduate of Michigan State College, Hershey taught at Washington University, St Louis, until 1950 and then worked at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. His best-known work was done in the early 1950s with Martha Chase (1927– ), when they proved that DNA is the genetic material of bacteriophage (the virus that infects bacteria). They used phage in which the DNA core had been labelled with radioactive phosphorus and the protein coat of the phage with radioactive sulphur. The work showed that when phage attacks a bacterial cell it injects the DNA into it, leaving the protein coat on the outside; but the injected DNA causes production of new phage, complete with protein. The DNA must carry the information leading to the formation of the entire phage particle had been cautious on the status of DNA as an information-carrier; Hershey proved it. Hershey was a phage expert already, having shown that spontaneous mutations occurred in it in 1945.

Early impression of Hershey was that he preferred whisky to tea, liked living on his boat for months at a time and was very independent. Delbrück, S E Luria (1912–91) and Hershey were the nucleus of the ‘phage group’ who contributed so much to molecular biology. The trio shared a Nobel Prize in 1969.

Hershey, Milton - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Milton Hershey [next] [back] Herschel, Sir John (Frederick William)

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