Erwin Chargaff, Austro-Hungarian biochemist

Erwin Chargaff, Austro-Hungarian biochemist

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Credit: AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Erwin Chargaff (1905-2002), Austro-Hungarian biochemist. Chargaff studied chemistry at the University of Vienna, graduating with a PhD in 1928. After short research posts at Yale University, Berlin's Institute of Hygiene, and the Pasteur Institute, Paris, he moved to Columbia University, New York City, in 1935 where he remained until retirement. Chargaff is best known for his work on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), particularly its four bases. He showed that the proportion of bases in DNA varied between species, meaning there was enough variety for it to be the genetic material. He also discovered that the number of thymine bases always equaled the number of adenine bases, and the number of cytosine bases always equaled the number of guanine bases. This equivalence was of vital importance to the work of Watson and Crick in discovering the structure of DNA. The two discoveries are known as Chargaff's rules.

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