Early responses to Avery et al.'s paper on DNA as hereditary material

Avery’s et al. ’s 1944 paper provides the first direct evidence of DNA having gene-like properties and marks the beginning of a new phase in early molecular genetics (with a strong focus on chemistry and DNA). The study of its reception shows that on the whole, Avery’s results were immediately appreciated and motivated new research on transformation, the chemical nature of DNA’s biological specificity and bacteria genetics. It shows, too, that initial problems of transferring transformation to other systems and prominent criticism of its results nurtured skepticism. Avery’s experiment was downplayed and neglected particularly by many of those scientists who worked in the new fields of biochemical and biophysical genetics, genetic phage, and TMV research. This was not due to the fact that the implications of the paper could not be connected to generally accepted knowledge. Contrary to a widespread belief, the assumed uniformity of DNA as opposed to proteins was not used as an argument against the validity of Avery’s et al.’s finding. The indifference rather reflected, among other things, the disciplinary gap between the chemically oriented microbiologists and the old and new geneticists who remained committed to genetic and physical methods (in particular x-ray studies) and clung to the assumption that proteins were the sole carriers of biological specificity. The responses to Avery’s et al.’s paper show how different research interests in the areas between microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry interacted with the prejudices, dogmas, individual farsightedness or short-sightedness, and scientific authority during a pivotal period of early molecular biology.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index Translate to english
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,442
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Eleonora Cresto (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 39 (1):65-79.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Frank Portugal (2010). Oswald T. Avery: Nobel Laureate or Noble Luminary? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 53 (4):558-570.
M. Richards (2001). How Distinctive is Genetic Information? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 32 (4):663-687.
Lenny Moss (1992). A Kernel of Truth? On the Reality of the Genetic Program. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:335 - 348.
Matteo Mameli (2005). The Inheritance of Features. Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):365-399.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

5 ( #573,091 of 1,925,098 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #418,130 of 1,925,098 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.