The British Journal for the History of Science

Research Article

Oswald Avery and the Origin of Molecular Biology

Nicholas Russella1

a1 Department of Life Sciences, Bromley College of Technology, Rookery Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 8HE, U.K.

It is now twenty years since James Watson published his personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA and triggered the growing scholarly study of the roots of molecular biology. Watson himself was not concerned with the study of nucleic acids before he became directly involved but at least three detailed histories of the early development of molecular biology have subsequently appeared, together with books, papers and reviews from others who took part, or their partisan representatives. Of these three histories, only one does justice to Avery's work. His surviving DNA collaborator, MacLyn McCarty, believes that only Olby in The Path to the Double Helix deals adequately with Avery's contribution.