The Transforming Principle

Foundations | The Transforming Principle Click for larger version (74K) On May 13th, 1943, Oswald T. Avery (1877-1945) wrote a 14-page meandering letter to his brother Roy about his research, his despondence, his fears, and his dreams. His emotions range from excited explanation of what was happening in his lab to trepidations that the scientific community wouldn't accept his results. At one point, Avery questions whether he should leave the Rockefeller Institute, give up science, and retu

The Scientist Staff
Jul 27, 2003

Foundations | The Transforming Principle


On May 13th, 1943, Oswald T. Avery (1877-1945) wrote a 14-page meandering letter to his brother Roy about his research, his despondence, his fears, and his dreams. His emotions range from excited explanation of what was happening in his lab to trepidations that the scientific community wouldn't accept his results. At one point, Avery questions whether he should leave the Rockefeller Institute, give up science, and return to his native Tennessee. About a year after he sent this correspondence, Avery published his landmark genetics paper in which he proved that deoxyribose nucleic acid contains heritable genetic data.1

1. O.T. Avery et al., "Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types," J Exp Med, 79:137-58, 1944.

Oswald's letter transcribed:
... Sounds like a virus--may be a gene. But with mechanisms I am not now...

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVED CONTENT

ACCESS MORE THAN 30,000 ARTICLES ACROSS MANY TOPICS AND DISCIPLINES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archived stories, digital editions of The Scientist Magazine, and much more!
Already a member?