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Avery, Oswald T.

Charles Scribner's Sons
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  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


DICTIONARY OF SCIENTIFIC BIOGRAPHY CHARLES COULSTON GILLISPIE EDITOR IN CHIEF Volume 1 PIERRE ABAILARD-L. S. BERG CHARLES SCRIBNER’S. SONS l NEW YORK /q $P AVERY, OSWALD T. (b. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 21 October 1877; d. Nashville, Tennessee, 20 February 19.55), biology. Avery began his career as a physician. His father, a Canadian clergyman, had moved his family to New York in 1887, and Avery spent the next sixty-one years of his life there. He attended Colgate University, graduating A.B. in 1900, and received his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1904. He worked for a short time in the field of clinical medicine and then joined the Hoagland Laboratory in Brooklyn, New York, as a researcher and lecturer in bacteriology and immunology (his lectures at Hoagland won him the appellation “The Professor,” by which he was known throughout his career). In 1913 he became a member of the staff of the Rockefeller Institute Hospital, where he remained until 1948. At the time that Avery came to the hospital, an investigation of lobar pneumonia was in progress, and he joined with A. Dochez in work on the immuno- logical classification of the pneumococcus bacterium. AVERY This research led to the announcement, in 1917, that the pneumococcus produced an immunologically specific soluble chemical substance during growth in a culture medium.1 Dochez and Avery further estab- lished that the substance was not a disintegration product of cell mortality but a true product of its metabolic processes, and that the substance was also present in the serum and urine of animals and men suffering from lobar pneumonia. Beginning in 1922, Avery and his colleagues studied the chemical nature of these “soluble specific sub- stances,” which Avery believed were closely related to the immunological specificity of bacteria. They were soon shown to be polysaccharides derived from the capsular envelo

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