In a very simple experiment, Oswald Avery's group showed that DNA was the "transforming principle." When isolated from one strain of bacteria, DNA was able to transform another strain and confer characteristics onto that second strain. DNA was carrying hereditary information.
With DNA as the hereditary molecule, the stage was set for one of the most exciting periods in DNA science: understanding DNA structure and function.
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In 1944, Avery and MacLeod, and McCarty purified the transforming principle of Fred Griffith's earlier experiment with pneumocossus bacteria. By a process of elimination, these scientists showed that DNA was the factor that caused genetic transformation.
A page from the May 15, 1943 letter from Oswald Avery to his brother Roy. In the letter Avery speculated on how transformation could happen. Avery never publicly connected genes with DNA and his transformation experiments.