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...

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