- Erwin Chargaff
Erwin Chargaff (Czernowitz,
August 11, 1905– New York City, USA, June 20, 2002) was an Austrian Jewish biochemistwho emigrated to the United States during the Nazi era. Through careful experimentation, Chargaff discovered two rules that helped lead to the discovery of the double helixstructure of DNA.
Chargaff had one son, Thomas, with his wife Vera Broido, whom he married in 1928. Chargaff became an American
Chargaff was born in Czernowitz on August 11, 1905, Bukowina,
Austria, which is now Chernovtsy , Ukraine.cite web | title = Faculty Remembered | author = Christy, Nicholas | date = Winter 2004 | url = http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/news/journal/journal-o/winter-2004/faculty.html | publisher = 'Columbia University P&S Journal" | accessdate = 2007-08-04 ] Chargaff had a difficult time deciding whether he would pursue science or philologyas a career: he had a natural gift for languages, and over the course of his life he would learn 15. His American colleagues recalled that he could speak English better than they could.
From 1923 to 1928, Chargaff studied
chemistryin Vienna, receiving a doctorate. From 1928 to 1930, Chargaff served as the Milton Campbell Research Fellowin organic chemistryat Yale University, but he did not like New Haven, Connecticut. Chargaff returned to Europe, where he lived from 1930 to 1934, serving first as the assistant in charge of chemistryfor the department of bacteriologyand public healthat the University of Berlin(1930-1933), and then as a research associate at the Pasteur Institutein Paris(1933-1934).
Chargaff emigrated to
New Yorkin 1935, taking a position as a research associate in the department of biochemistry at Columbia University, where he spent most of his professional career. Chargaff became an assistant professorin 1938 and a professorin 1952. After serving as department chair from 1970 to 1974, Chargaff retired to professor emeritus. After his retirement to professor emeritus, Chargaff moved his lab to Roosevelt Hospital, where he continued to work until 1992. He retired in 1992.
During his time at Columbia, Chargaff published numerous
scientific papers, dealing primarily with the study of nucleic acidssuch as DNAusing chromatographic techniques. He became interested in DNAin 1944 after Oswald Averyidentified the molecule as the basis of heredity. In 1950, he discovered that the amounts of adenineand thyminein DNA were roughly the same, as were the amounts of cytosineand guanine. This later became known as the first of Chargaff's rules.
Honors awarded to him include the
Pasteur Medal(1949) and the National Medal of Science(1974).
Erwin Chargaff proposed two main rules in his lifetime which were appropriately named
Chargaff's rules. The first and best known achievement was to show that in natural DNAthe number of guanineunits equals the number of cytosineunits and the number of adenineunits equals the number of thymineunits. In human DNA, for example, the four bases are present in these percentages: A=30.9% and T=29.4%; G=19.9% and C=19.8%. This strongly hinted towards the base pairmakeup of the DNA, although Chargaff was not able to make this connection himself. For this research, Chargaff is credited with disproving the tetranucleotide hypothesis( Phoebus Levene's widely accepted hypothesis that DNA was composed of a large number of repeats of GACT). Most workers had previously assumed that deviations from equimolar base ratios (G = A = C = T) were due to experimental error, but Chargaff documented that the variation was real, with [C + G] typically being slightly less abundant. He was able to do this with the newly developed paper chromatographyand ultraviolet spectrophotometer. Chargaff met Francis Crickand James D. Watsonat Cambridgein 1952, and, despite not getting on well with them personally, explained his findings to them. Chargaff's research would later help Watson and Crick to deduce the double helical structure of DNA.
The second of Chargaff's rules is that the composition of DNA varies from one species to another, in particular in the relative amounts of A, G, T, and C bases. Such evidence of molecular diversity, which had been presumed absent from DNA, made DNA a more credible candidate for the
genetic materialthan protein.
Besides making these important steps toward the structure of DNA, Chargaff's lab also conducted research on the
metabolismof amino acidsand inositol, blood coagulation, lipids and lipoproteins, and the biosynthesisof phosphotransferases.
Beginning in the 1950s, Chargaff became increasingly outspoken about the failings of the field of
molecular biology, claiming that molecular biology was "running riot and doing things that can never be justified." He recognized that human knowledge will always be limited in relation to the complexityof the natural world. It is simply dangerous when humans believe that the world is a machine and even assume that humans can have full knowledgeof its workings. In a world that functions as a complex system of interdependency and interconnectedness, genetic engineeringof life will inevitably have unforeseen consequences. It is for this reason that Chargaff warned that “the technology of genetic engineering poses a greater threat to the world than the advent of nuclear technology. An irreversible attack on the biosphereis something so unheard - of, so unthinkable to previous generations, that I only wish that mine had not been guiltyof it.”
Francis Crick, James Watsonand Maurice Wilkinsreceived the 1962 Nobel Prizefor their work on discovering the double helix of DNA, Chargaff withdrew from his lab and wrote to scientists over the world about his exclusion.cite news | title = No Nobel Prize for Whining | author = Judson, Horace | date = 2003-10-20| url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9C02E4DE123EF933A15753C1A9659C8B63 | publisher = "New York Times" | accessdate = 2007-08-03 ] Chargaff was a notable exclusion, along with the deceased Rosalind Franklin, from the 1962 Nobel Prize for DNA discovery. The Prize can only be split three ways. Along with Chargaff, 23 other scientists contributed significantly to the double helix elucidation and were not rewarded with the Nobel for their work towards the double helix. Thus, only the people at 'the top of the pyramid' are rewarded for their genius, but all those who provided supporting material are well recognised by their peers, if not the public and the media.
*Erwin Chargaff, "Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature" (1978). Rockefeller University Press: ISBN 0-87470-029-9; 252 p.
*Serious Questions, An ABC of Sceptical Reflections. Boston, Basel, Stuttgart: Birkhäuser, 1986
Nobel Prize controversies
* [http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/c/chargaff.htm Erwin Chargaff Papers] , American Philosophical Society
* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/medicalscience/story/0%2C9837%2C747814%2C00.html Chargaff obituary] from "
The Guardian", July 2, 2002
* [http://www.jbc.org/cgi/reprint/192/1/223.pdf The composition of the deoxyribonucleic acid of salmon sperm] by E. Chargaff, R. Lipshitz, C. Green and M. E. Hodes in "Journal of Biological Chemistry" (1951) volume 192 pages 223-230.
* [http://crystal.biochem.queensu.ca/forsdyke/bioinfo1.htm "How Genetics Got a Chemical Education"] . "Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences" (1979), 325, 345-360.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Erwin Chargaff — (* 11. August 1905 in Czernowitz; † 20. Juni 2002 in New York) war ein österreichisch amerikanischer Biochemiker und Schriftsteller. Als Wissenschaftler lieferte Chargaff wichtige Beiträge zur Entschlüsselung der DNA Struktur. Nach seiner… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Erwin Chargaff — 200px Erwin Chargaff Nacimiento 11 de agosto de 1905 Czernowitz, Austria Fallecimiento 20 de junio de 2002 (96 años) Nueva York, EE. UU … Wikipedia Español
Erwin Chargaff — (11 de agosto, 1905 20 de junio, 2002) fue un químico austriaco. Nació en Czernowitz, Bukowina, Austria.Estudia química en Viena, luego pasa dos años en Yale. Desde 1930 trabaja en la Universidad de Berlín, hasta que se traslada al Instituto… … Enciclopedia Universal
Erwin Chargaff — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Erwin et Chargaff. Fichier:Erwin Chargaff.jpg Erwin Chargaff. Erwin Chargaff était un biochimiste autrichien, né à Czernowitz le 11 août 1905, décédé le 20 juin 2002, naturalisé américain en 1940. À l aide de… … Wikipédia en Français
Chargaff — Erwin Chargaff. Erwin Chargaff (* 11. August 1905 in Tschernowitz; † 20. Juni 2002 in New York City, USA) war ein österreichisch amerikanischer Biochemiker und Schriftsteller. Als Wissenschaftler lieferte Chargaff wichtige Beiträge zur… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Chargaff's rules — state that DNA from any cell of all organisms should have a 1:1 ratio (base Pair Rule)of pyrimidine and purine bases and, more specifically, that the amount of guanine is equal to cytosine and the amount of adenine is equal to thymine. This… … Wikipedia
Chargaff — Chargaff: Family name Meaning Judaic Hebrew abbreviation (Hebrew: חרְגָ״ף ) of (Hebrew: חָתָן רַבִּי גּ״ףּ״ ) son in law of Rabbi G.P. , e.g. Gershon Pinchas Region of origin Jewish (Galicia, Poland, Bukovina) Language(s) of origin Hebrew … Wikipedia
Erwin — ist ein männlicher Vorname, der allerdings auch als Familienname gebräuchlich ist. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung des Namens 2 Namenstag 3 Varianten 4 Bekannte … Deutsch Wikipedia
Erwin — may refer to: * Erwin (storm) * Erwin (User Friendly character)People: * Erwin Chargaff (1905 ndash;2002), Austrian biochemist * Erwin Hauer (b. 1926), Austrian born American sculptor * Egon Erwin Kisch (1885 ndash;1948), Czechoslovakian writer… … Wikipedia
Erwin — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Erwin est un prénom d origine germanique issu de erā signifiant « réputation, honneur » (cf. allemand Ehre) et win « ami » (cf.… … Wikipédia en Français