Erwin Chargaff

Date of birth:August 11, 1905
Education:Studied at Vienna, Yale, Berlin, and Paris
DNA discovery:He created the base pair rule which states that adenine pairs with thymine, and guanine pairs with cytosine. His discoveries helped lead to the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA.
Date of death:June 20, 2002


Erwin Chargaff made very important contributions to the study of DNA. Chargaff’s simple but important finding of the molecule’s composition helped to lead James Watson and Francis Crick to the discovery of the double helix. It all started in 1944, when Chargaff was reading a paper written by Oswald Avery which stated that DNA, not proteins, transmitted genetic information.By reading this paper, it inspired Chargaff to find out how exactly DNA worked. By doing a series of studies, Chargaff was able to put together rules for DNA. He discovered that no matter where DNA came from, the number of adenine bases always equaled the number of thymine bases and the number of guanine always equaled the number of cytosine bases. This means that there are equal amounts of purine bases and pyrimidine bases. In 1950, he published a review of his findings. He called the ratios “regularities”. This later became known as “Chargaff’s Rules”. Along with the first rule, he came up with another rule that stated that the composition of DNA varied from one species to another in the amounts of the bases A, G, T, and C. He then retired from Colombia in 1974, but continued his research in a lab until his death in 2002.



"Erwin Chargaff". Contemporary Authors. 10 April 2008

"Columbia's Contribution to the DNA Structure: Chargaff's Rule". The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
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"Erwin Chargaff". 10 April 2008.

"Erwin Chargaff". Online Encyclopedia. 10 April 2008.