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Oswald Avery

AKA Oswald Theodore Avery

Born: 21-Oct-1877
Birthplace: Halifax, NS, Canada
Died: 20-Feb-1955
Location of death: Nashville, TN
Cause of death: Cancer - Liver
Remains: Buried, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN

Gender: Male
Religion: Baptist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Biologist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Antibodies and DNA

Military service: US Army Medical Corps (1917-19)

American bacteriologist Oswald Avery identified a complex carbohydrate called polysaccharide, and showed that it could stimulate production of antibodies as an immune response. It was the first immune response seen in anything but a protein. After microbiologist Frederick Griffith showed that the bacterium responsible for lobar pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae, could be altered, and demonstrated that such alterations were then passed on to the next generation.

Avery collaborated with Maclyn McCarty and Colin MacLeod to discover the chemical composition of the substance that allowed this transference. Like most scientists, they expected that the substance would be a form of protein, but instead Avery and his colleagues found that it was entirely made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This overturned the accepted understanding that DNA was relatively unimportant in passing genetic characteristics, and showed that genes are made not of protein but of DNA. Avery never married, and lived for 35 years with his friend and frequent collaborator, immunologist Alphonse Dochez.

Father: Joseph Avery (Baptist minister, d. 1892)
Mother: Elizabeth Crowdy Avery (b. 1843, m. 1870, d. 1910)
Brother: Ernest Avery (b. 1874, d. 1892 tuberculosis)
Brother: Roy Crowdy Avery (bacteriologist, b. 1892, d. 1969)

    High School: Colgate Academy, Hamilton, NY (1897)
    University: National Conservatory of Music of America (attended)
    Medical School: MD, Columbia University (1904)
    Teacher: Columbia University (1904-07)
    Professor: Hoagland Laboratory, Brooklyn, NY (1907-13)
    Professor: Rockefeller University (1913-48)

    Lasker Award 1947
    Copley Medal 1945
    Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
    American Association of Immunologists
    American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists
    National Academy of Sciences
    Society of American Bacteriologists
    Lunar Crater Avery (1.4 S, 81.4 E, 9 km diameter)
    Naturalized US Citizen 1-Aug-1918
    English Ancestry Maternal and Paternal
    Canadian Ancestry

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