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    Fry, Michael 2016. Landmark Experiments in Molecular Biology.

    Méthot, Pierre-Olivier 2016. Bacterial Transformation and the Origins of Epidemics in the Interwar Period: The Epidemiological Significance of Fred Griffith’s “Transforming Experiment”. Journal of the History of Biology, Vol. 49, Issue. 2, p. 311.

    Cresto, Eleonora 2008. In search of the best explanation about the nature of the gene: Avery on pneumococcal transformation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 39, Issue. 1, p. 65.

    Russell, Nicholas 1994. Autobiographies as instruments for the study of the history and nature of science: An essay on three contemporary Italian scientists. Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 7, Issue. 3-4, p. 365.

  • The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 21, Issue 4
  • December 1988, pp. 393-400

Oswald Avery and the Origin of Molecular Biology

  • Nicholas Russell (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2009

It is now twenty years since James Watson published his personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA and triggered the growing scholarly study of the roots of molecular biology. Watson himself was not concerned with the study of nucleic acids before he became directly involved but at least three detailed histories of the early development of molecular biology have subsequently appeared, together with books, papers and reviews from others who took part, or their partisan representatives. Of these three histories, only one does justice to Avery's work. His surviving DNA collaborator, MacLyn McCarty, believes that only Olby in The Path to the Double Helix deals adequately with Avery's contribution.

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O.T. Avery , C.M. McLeod and M. McCarty , ‘Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types. Induction of transformation by a desoxyribonucleic acid fraction isolated from Pneumococcus Type III’, Journal of Experimental Medicine (1944) 79, pp. 137158.

J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick , ‘A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid’, Nature (1953) 171, p. 737.

G.S. Stent , ‘Prematurity and uniqueness in scientific discovery’, Scientific American (1972) 227, p. 84

H.V. Wyatt , ‘When does information become knowledge’, Nature (1972) 235, pp. 8689.

A.F. Coburn , ‘Oswald Theodore Avery and DNA’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1969) 12, pp. 623–30

A.M. Diamond , ‘Avery's “neurotic reluctance”’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1982) 26, pp. 132136

R. Olby , ‘Avery in retrospect’, Nature (1972) 239, p. 295.

F. Griffith , ‘The significance of Pneumococcal types’, Journal of Hygiene (1928) 27, pp. 113159.

C. MacLeod , ‘Oswald Theodore Avery 1877–1955’, Journal of General Microbiology (1957) 17, pp. 539549

N.C. Russell , ‘Towards a history of biology in the twentieth century. Directed autobiographies as historical sources’, British Journal for the History of Science (1988) 21, pp. 7789.

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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