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Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA: A History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology" (2001), by Frederic Lawrence Holmes

In 2001, Yale University Press published Frederic Lawrence Holmes' book, Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA: A History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology" (Replication of DNA), which chronicles the 1950s debate about how DNA replicates. That experiment verified that DNA replicates semi-conservatively as originally proposed by Watson and Crick. Rather than focusing solely on experiments and findings, Holmes's book presents the investigative processes of scientists studying DNA replication.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Equilibrium Density Gradient Centrifugation in Cesium Chloride Solutions Developed by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

Matthew Meselson, Franklin Stahl, and Jerome Vinograd, developed cesium chloride, or CsCl, density gradient centrifugation in the 1950s at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Density gradient centrifugation enables scientists to separate substances based on size, shape, and density. Meselson and Stahl invented a specific type of density gradient centrifugation, called isopycnic centrifugation that used a solution of cesium chloride to separate DNA molecules based on density alone.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1957–1958), by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl

In an experiment later named for them, Matthew Stanley Meselson and Franklin William Stahl in the US demonstrated during the 1950s the semi-conservative replication of DNA, such that each daughter DNA molecule contains one new daughter subunit and one subunit conserved from the parental DNA molecule. The researchers conducted the experiment at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, from October 1957 to January 1958.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Experiments

The Debate over DNA Replication Before the Meselson-Stahl Experiment (1953–1957)

Between 1953 and 1957, before the Meselson-Stahl experiment verified semi-conservative replication of DNA, scientists debated how DNA replicated. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed that DNA was composed of two helical strands that wound together in a coil. Their model suggested a replication mechanism, later termed semi-conservative replication, in which parental DNA strands separated and served as templates for the replication of new daughter strands.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Franklin William Stahl (1929– )

Franklin William Stahl studied DNA replication, bacteriophages, and genetic recombination in the US during the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. With his colleague Matthew Meselson, Stahl performed an experiment called the Meselson-Stahl experiment, which provided evidence for a process called semi-conservative DNA replication. Semi-conservative replication is a process in which each strand of a parental DNA double helix serves as a template for newly replicated daughter strands, so that one parental strand is conserved in every daughter double helix.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Lysogenic Bacteria as an Experimental Model at the Pasteur Institute (1915-1965)

Lysogenic bacteria, or virus-infected bacteria, were the primary experimental models used by scientists working in the laboratories of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, during the 1950s and 1960s. Historians of science have noted that the use of lysogenic bacteria as a model in microbiological research influenced the scientific achievements of the Pasteur Institute's scientists.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organisms, Experiments

"On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)" (1954), by Max Delbruck

In 1954 Max Delbruck published On the Replication of Desoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) to question the semi-conservative DNA replication mechanism proposed that James Watson and Francis Crick had proposed in 1953. In his article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Delbrück offers an alternative DNA replication mechanism, later called dispersive replication. Unlike other articles before it, On the Replication presents ways to experimentally test different DNA replication theories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck (1906–1981)

Max Ludwig Henning Delbrick applied his knowledge of theoretical physics to biological systems such as bacterial viruses called bacteriophages, or phages, and gene replication during the twentieth century in Germany and the US. Delbrück demonstrated that bacteria undergo random genetic mutations to resist phage infections. Those findings linked bacterial genetics to the genetics of higher organisms. In the mid-twentieth century, Delbrück helped start the Phage Group and Phage Course in the US, which further organized phage research.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Hershey-Chase Experiments (1952), by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase

In 1951 and 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conducted a series of experiments at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, that verified genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Hershey and Chase performed their experiments, later named the Hershey-Chase experiments, on viruses that infect bacteria, also called bacteriophages. The experiments followed decades of scientists’ skepticism about whether genetic material was composed of protein or DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Jane Maienschein (1950- )

Jane Maienschein is the daughter of Joyce Kylander and Fred Maienschein, and was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 23 September 1950. She attended MIT as a freshman and then transferred to Yale University in 1969 when Yale decided to admit women undergraduates. In 1972 she graduated with an honors degree in History, the Arts, and Letters having written a thesis on the history of science. She then attended Indiana University and studied with historian of embryology Frederick B.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Y-Chromosome in Animals

The Y-chromosome is one of a pair of chromosomes that determine the genetic sex of individuals in mammals, some insects, and some plants. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the development of new microscopic and molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing, enabled scientists to confirm the hypothesis that chromosomes determine the sex of developing organisms. In an adult organism, the genes on the Y-chromosome help produce the male gamete, the sperm cell. Beginning in the 1980s, many studies of human populations used the Y-chromosome gene sequences to trace paternal lineages.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Theories

Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)

In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

“Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid” (1953), by James Watson and Francis Crick

In May 1953, scientists James Watson and Francis Crick wrote the article “Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid,” hereafter “Genetical Implications,” which was published in the journal Nature.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Walter Stanborough Sutton (1877-1916)

Walter Stanborough Sutton studied grasshoppers and connected the phenomena of meiosis, segregation, and independent assortment with the chromosomal theory of inheritance in the early twentieth century in the US. Sutton researched chromosomes, then called inheritance mechanisms. He confirmed a theory of Wilhelm Roux, who studied embryos in Breslau, Germany, in the late 1880s, who had argued that chromosomes and heredity were linked. Theodor Boveri, working in Munich, Germany, independently reached similar conclusions about heredity as Sutton.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)

During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids” (1953) by Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey

In February 1953, Linus Pauling and Robert Brainard Corey, two scientists working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, proposed a structure for deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in their article “A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids,” henceforth “Nucleic Acids.” In the article, Pauling and Corey suggest a model for nucleic acids, including DNA, that consisted of three nucleic acid strands wound together in a triple helix.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Arthur William Galston (1920–2008)

Arthur W. Galston studied plant hormones in the United States during the late-twentieth century. His dissertation on the flowering process of soybean plants led others to develop Agent Orange, the most widely employed herbicide during the Vietnam War, used to defoliate forests and eliminate enemy cover and food sources. Galston protested the spraying of those defoliants in Vietnam, as they could be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“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” (1944) by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty

In 1944, Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty published an article in which they concluded that genes, or molecules that dictate how organisms develop, are made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The article is titled “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,” hereafter “Transformation.” The authors isolated, purified, and characterized genes within bacteria and found evidence that those genes were made of DNA and not protein.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications