Erwin Chargaff

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Erwin Chargaff
BirthplaceCzernowitz, Austria-Hungary
Known for Chargaff's rules

Chargaff, Erwin


Born Aug. 11, 1905, in Czernowitz, Austria-Hungary (now Chernovtsy, Ukrainian SSR). Biochemist. Austrian by nationality; a resident of the USA since 1928 (US citizen since 1940). Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1965); member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1961).

Chargaff received his doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1928. He conducted research at Yale University from 1928 to 1930, at the University of Berlin from 1930 to 1933, and at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1933 and 1934. In 1935 he joined the staff of Columbia University, where he held a professorship in biochemistry from 1952 to 1974.

Chargaff has devoted his research primarily to the biochemistry of nucleic acids and the interrelationships of the nitrogenous bases in these acids. He discovered that the deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) in different biological species differ from one another in the molar amounts of the constituent bases they contain, and between 1950 and 1953 he discovered a rule concerning base-pairing regularities in DNA. Chargaff’s rule states that there is a constant ratio of purines to pyrimidines in DNA (that is, the total amount of purine bases—adenine and guanine—is in constant ratio to that of the pyrimidine bases thymine and cytosine); ribonucleic acids, however, usually contain somewhat larger amounts of purines than pyrimidines.


Essays on Nucleic Acids. Amsterdam-New York-London, 1963.
References in periodicals archive ?
20) Chargaff, E, 'Some recent studies on the composition and structure of nucleic acids', Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology, vol.
21) Chargaff, E, 'How genetics got a chemical education', Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol.
However, elsewhere in his 1973 essay Chargaff comments that "society has the science it deserves" (p.
This was a more important discovery than Chargaff apparently realized at the time, and he did not follow it up properly.
By demonstrating in the late 1940s that the ratios of the bases in DNA are constant, Chargaff played a crucial role in the work that led to Watson and Crick's formulation of a model of DNA in 1953.
In addition, they did cite Erwin Chargaff's research on base pair ratios, which was pivotal to their discovery, and Chargaff was very open in admitting that it was the 1944 paper which triggered his interest in DNA.
Because so little is known, their release is an uncontrolled experiment, which the biochemist Erwin Chargaff, known as the father of molecular bi ology, has said would constitute "an irreversible attack on the biosphere.
As for the judgement of history, I quote Professor Erwin Chargaff, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Columbia University: "I have the feeling that science has transgressed a barrier that should have remained inviolate .
Chargaff had made a start by showing that the number of purine groups was equal to the number of pyrimidine groups (see 1948), but there was much more to be done.
Erwin Chargaff has put it eloquently: "This world is given to us on loan.
The work of Chargaff and Franklin (see 1952) had supplied the information necessary to work out the structure of DNA.