Major Experiments and Scientists Involved In the Discovery of DNA as Our Hereditary Material and Its Structure

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the molecular component of the genes. The scientists behind the discovery of DNA are many. From its discovery to the discovery of its structure, DNA structural development took many steps and involved many scientific processes and scientists, (Wallis, 1999).

Although James Watson and Francis Crick were the scientists responsible for determination of the double-helical structure of DNA, a Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher is responsible for the discovery of DNA, (Wallis, 1999). Having visited various hospitals to pick up used bandages, a source of white bloods cells, Friedrich Miescher was able to extract an unknown type of molecule, which had a high percentage of phosphorus and was acidic in nature. Friedrich named it “nuclein,” which was later changed to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

After the discovery of DNA, there was a continued, believe by scientists that it was a protein and not DNA that was responsible for transfer of hereditary information. However, there was groundbreaking discovery that took place in 1944 that changed the perception. This occurred when biologist Oswald Avery carried a series of experiments that found that only DNA could change R type bacteria into S type, (Wallis, 1999).

Earlier, scientists knew that the S-type bacteria had an outer layer while the R-type did not. That meant that DNA had some special properties that allowed it to “transfer” the characteristics of S-type bacteria into the R-type bacteria. Since this property was not true for other components including proteins, it made it true that indeed DNA was source of transfer of hereditary information. Two scientists, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase, who confirmed that protein was not responsible for hereditary information, confirmed his results eight years later.

James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA when they used building to show the famous double helix. However, this was also contributed to by the X-ray crystallographic data of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins at King’s College, London, who were important to the discovery, (Wallis, 1999).


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