Maclyn McCarty

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Maclyn McCarty (South Bend, Indiana, June 9, 1911 – January 2, 2005) was an American geneticist.

Maclyn McCarty, who devoted his life as a physician-scientist to studying infectious disease organisms, was best known for his part in the monumental discovery that DNA, rather than protein, constituted the chemical nature of a gene. Uncovering the molecular secret of the gene in question — that for the capsular polysaccharide of pneumococcal bacteria — led the way to studying heredity not only through genetics but also through chemistry, and initiated the dawn of the age of molecular biology. McCarty was the youngest and longest surviving member of the research team responsible for this feat (known as the Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment), which also included Oswald T. Avery and Colin MacLeod; he died on January 2, 2005, from congestive heart failure.

McCarty was born in 1911 in South Bend, Indiana, the second of four sons of a branch manager for the Studebaker Corporation while it was still a firm for horse-drawn carriages. In his teens, McCarty set himself the goal of becoming a physician-scientist, and he pursued a successful strategy to prepare for admission to, and early success in, Johns Hopkins University Medical School. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, he presciently began his studies in the nascent field of biochemistry, working with James Murray Luck on protein turnover in the liver. In 1937, he began his clinical training in pediatrics at the...
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