Editor's Note: On Feb. 1, 1944, the Journal of Experimental Medicine published a scientific paper entitled "Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types." Coauthored by Rockefeller Institute (now University) Hospital researchers Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty, the paper--preceding by a decade the Nobel Prize- winning revelations of James Watson and Francis Crick--described the discovery that genes are made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA; prior to their studies, no biological assay was available to link genetic information with DNA.

Immunologist and Nobelist Peter Medawar called the Avery team's isolation of genes in pure chemical form "the most interesting and portentous biological experiment of the 20th century." Another Nobelist, Joshua Lederberg--former president of Rockefeller University and now University Professor at that institution--lauds it as "the pivotal discovery of 20th-century biology."

Lederberg, who received the 1958 Nobel in physiology or medicine for his contributions in...

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