December 4, 1908–May 22, 1997


MOST STUDENTS OF BIOLOGY know of Hershey—his best known experiment is described in texts of both biology and genetics. This work (1952,1) provided cogent support for the hypothesis that DNA is the conveyor of genetic information. The Hershey-Chase experiment used DNA-specific and protein-specific radioactive labels to show that the DNA of an infecting T2 bacteriophage entered the bacterium while most of the protein could be stripped from the surface of the cell by agitation in a Waring blender. Such abused cells produced a normal crop of new phage particles. Previous evidence implicating DNA in heredity had shown that a property of the surface coat of the pneumococcus bacterium could be passed from one strain to another via chemically isolated DNA. The Hershey-Chase observation justified the view that the entire set of hereditary information of a creature was so encoded. This work counted heavily in making Hershey a shareholder, with Max Delbrück (1906–81) and Salvadore E.Luria (1912–91), of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Al Hershey was born on December 4, 1908, in Owosso, Michigan. He obtained a B.S. in 1930 and a Ph.D. in 1934 from Michigan State College. From 1934 until 1950 he was

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement