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Erwin Chargaff was a biochemist who discovered two rules that became key information in the discovery of the DNA double helix structure.
See the fact file below for more information on the Erwin Chargaff or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Erwin Chargaff worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Erwin Chargaff was born in Czernowitz, Austria-Hungary (now known as Chernivtsi, Ukraine).
- His mother was Rosa Silberstein, and his father was Hermann Chargaff. His father was an owner of a small private bank.
- Erwin had a younger sister named Greta.
- The family was vacationing at a resort at the Baltic Sea when World War I began. They then decided to move to Vienna, Austria.
- Erwin was about nine years old when they arrived in Vienna. He considered the city of Vienna as his home town.
- He entered Maximiliansgymnasium, where he excelled in Greek and Latin.
- Although Erwin took a long time to speak, he was gifted at learning new languages and eventually mastered fifteen languages.
- In 1924, he entered Vienna College of Technology to study chemistry.
- He received his PhD in 1928.
- In September 1929, he married Vera Broido, whom he met at Vienna College. In 1939, Thomas, their only child, was born in New York.
- Erwin worked with Rudolph Anderson between 1928 and 1930.
- They discovered two branched-chain fatty acids, published seven papers, and studied the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.
- Erwin returned to Europe with his wife in the summer of 1930.
- He became a senior chemistry assistant in the Department of Bacteriology and Public Health at the University of Berlin.
- Erwin, having a Jewish background, was required to resign from his job when the Nazis took over in 1933.
- In March of the same year, he was invited to work at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.
- Within a month of receiving the letter, the couple moved to Paris. He worked on polysaccharides and bacterial pigments.
- The Chargaffs returned to New York in 1935, and Erwin got a job at Columbia University as a biochemist.
- In 1938, he became an assistant professor at the same university.
- He conducted research on blood coagulation between 1936 and 1948.
- In 1944, Chargaff heard about the research of Oswald Avery from the Rockefeller Institute in New York.
- Avery, along with his colleagues, concluded that human genes were made of DNA.
- Erwin decided to work on DNA after learning about this research. He was also influenced by Erwin Schrödinger’s proposal that the gene was a code-script of heredity.
- Chargaff worked with Charlotte Green, Ernst Vischer, and a few more colleagues.
- The DNA was prepared by Chargaff. Green and Vischer separated the DNA into its components using partition chromatography.
- Although their initial results were rough, they started getting interesting results in 1947.
- Chargaff was reassured that living species have differing characters because they have different DNA.
- By 1949, Chargaff shifted his focus on the bases of the DNA.
- He revealed that the quantities of the DNA bases vary depending on the species from which the DNA came from.
- Erwin also stated that the possible base arrangements in the DNA is enormous, concluding that the DNA could mostly likely be the key of inheritance.
- Chargaff further discovered that regardless of the species, the amount of thymine (T) was equal to adenine (A), likewise for cytosine (C) to guanine (G).
- These set of discoveries is now known as Chargaff’s Rule, which states that the ratio of A:T is 1:1, and G:C is also 1:1, and that the amounts of the bases vary from species to species.
- In May 1952, Chargaff met James Watson and Francis Crick, who were also working on their own DNA research at Cambridge University in the UK.
- Erwin talked to the pair about his work, mentioning about the 1:1 ratios.
- After a year of their meeting, Watson and Crick were able to determine the structure of DNA.
- Watson and Crick, along with Maurice Wilkins, another DNA researcher, were given the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology for their contributions in the discovery of the structure of DNA.
- Chargaff, however, did not receive any recognition from the Nobel Prize Committee for his work on DNA, much like Oswald Avery.
- This sparked suspicions that Erwin’s outspoken views built a barrier between him and the Nobel Committee. That’s why, even though his research played a fundamental role in the discovery of the DNA double helix and mechanism of replication, he was not given a Nobel Prize.
- As a result, Erwin Chargaff became a stern critic of molecular biology.
- He believed techniques, such as genetic modification, are extremely dangerous, and he morally opposed these techniques.
LATER LIFE AND DEATH
- Erwin wrote over 500 essays and publications in journals throughout his career.
- In 1974, at the age of 69, he retired from Columbia University but remained as a faculty member of the university until 1982.
- He transferred his laboratory to the Roosevelt Hospital, where he worked until his retirement from active research in 1992.
- In 1995, his wife, Vera, died. Erwin spent his final years in his apartment’s library.
- Erwin Chargaff received an abundance of recognition from other institutions.
- He became an elected member of the National Academy of Science in 1965.
- Chargaff also received the following awards:
- (1949) Pasteur Medal
- (1958) Carl Neuberg Medal
- (1963) Charles Leopold Mayer Prize
- (1964) Heineken Prize
- (1974) Gregor Mendel Medal
- (1975) National Medal of Science
- On June 20, 2002, Erwin Chargaff died. He is buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery in New York, where his sister Greta and his wife Vera were also buried.
Erwin Chargaff Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Erwin Chargaff across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Erwin Chargaff worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Erwin Chargaff who was a biochemist who discovered two rules that became key information in the discovery of the DNA double helix structure.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Erwin Chargaff Facts
- The Child Erwin
- I Went To
- Find Out the Truth
- Learning Experiment
- The Bases
- Combining Sciences
- DNA’s Journey
- Chromatic Paper
- Do You Know DNA?
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