Alfred Day Hershey (1908–1997)
During the twentieth century in the United States, Alfred Day Hershey studied phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and experimentally verified that genes were made of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Genes are molecular, heritable instructions for how an organism develops. When Hershey started to study phages, scientists did not know if phages contained genes, or whether genes were made of DNA or protein. In 1952, Hershey and his research assistant, Martha Chase, conducted phage experiments that convinced scientists that genes were made of DNA. For his work with phages, Hershey shared the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Max Delbrück and Salvador Luria. Hershey conducted experiments with results that connected DNA to the function of genes, thereby changing the way scientists studied molecular biology and the development of organisms.