17 Facts About Erwin Chargaff


Erwin Chargaff was an Austro-Hungarian-born American biochemist, writer, Bucovinian Jew who emigrated to the United States during the Nazi era, and professor of biochemistry at Columbia University medical school.


Erwin Chargaff wrote a well-reviewed autobiography, Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature.


Erwin Chargaff then went on to the Vienna College of Technology where he met his future wife Vera Broido.


From 1924 to 1928, Erwin Chargaff studied chemistry in Vienna, and earned a doctorate working under the direction of Fritz Feigl.


From 1925 to 1930, Erwin Chargaff served as the Milton Campbell Research Fellow in organic chemistry at Yale University, but he did not like New Haven, Connecticut.


Erwin Chargaff returned to Europe, where he lived from 1930 to 1934, serving first as the assistant in charge of chemistry for the department of bacteriology and public health at the University of Berlin and then, being forced to resign his position in Germany as a result of the Nazi policies against Jews, as a research associate at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.


Erwin Chargaff immigrated to Manhattan, New York City in 1935, taking a position as a research associate in the department of biochemistry at Columbia University, where he spent most of his professional career.


Erwin Chargaff became an assistant professor in 1938 and a professor in 1952.


Erwin Chargaff became interested in DNA in 1944 after Oswald Avery identified the molecule as the basis of heredity.


Erwin Chargaff was actually the first biochemist to reorganize his laboratory to test this hypothesis, which he went on to prove by 1949.


Erwin Chargaff lectured about his results at Cambridge University in 1952, with Watson and Crick in attendance.


Key conclusions from Erwin Chargaff's work are now known as Chargaff's rules.


Erwin Chargaff did his experiments with the newly developed paper chromatography and ultraviolet spectrophotometer.


The second of Erwin Chargaff's rules is that the composition of DNA varies from one species to another, in particular in the relative amounts of A, G, T, and C bases.


Erwin Chargaff believed that human knowledge will always be limited in relation to the complexity of the natural world, and that it is simply dangerous when humans believe that the world is a machine, even assuming that humans can have full knowledge of its workings.


Erwin Chargaff believed that in a world that functions as a complex system of interdependency and interconnectedness, genetic engineering of life will inevitably have unforeseen consequences.


Erwin Chargaff died later that year on 20 June 2002 in Manhattan, New York City.