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Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNAA History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology"$
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Frederic Lawrence Holmes

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300085402

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300085402.001.0001

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(p.435) Chapter Fourteen Afterword
Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA

Frederic Lawrence Holmes

Yale University Press

This book concludes by discussing the role played by the Meselson-Stahl experiment in the development of molecular biology in the postwar period. The French biochemist Michel Morange, in his history of molecular biology, has invoked two other pivotal experiments in the identification of the genetic role of DNA as representative of two fundamental roles of experiment: “There exist in science two types of experiment, of different nature and function. The experiment of Avery [identifying the bacterial transforming factor as DNA in 1944]...is an example of the first category: without a priori ideas, the investigator discovers a surprising, novel, unexpected phenomenon. The experiment of Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase in 1952 is an example of the second category: at the limit, the result is already known. The objective of the experiment is simply to demonstrate it in a clear manner.”

Keywords:   molecular biology, Meselson-Stahl experiment, postwar period, Michel Morange, genetic role, DNA, Avery, a priori ideas, Alfred Hershey, Martha Chase

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