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Alfred Hershey
Alfred Hershey.jpg
Alfred Day Hershey

(1908-12-04)December 4, 1908
DiedMay 22, 1997(1997-05-22) (aged 88)
Alma materMichigan State University
Known forProof of DNA as genetic material of life
AwardsAlbert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (1958)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1969)
Scientific career
FieldsBacteriology, genetics, DNA
InstitutionsWashington University Medical School

Alfred Day Hershey (December 4, 1908 – May 22, 1997) was an American Nobel Prize–winning bacteriologist and geneticist.

He was born in Owosso, Michigan and received his B.S. in chemistry at Michigan State University in 1930 and his Ph.D. in bacteriology in 1934, taking a position shortly thereafter at the Department of Bacteriology at Washington University in St. Louis.

He began performing experiments with bacteriophages with Italian-American Salvador Luria, German Max Delbrück, and observed that when two different strains of bacteriophage have infected the same bacteria, the two viruses may exchange genetic information.

He moved with his research partner Martha Chase to Laurel Hollow, New York, in 1950 to join the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Genetics, where he and Martha Chase performed the famous Hershey–Chase experiment in 1952.[1] This experiment provided additional evidence that DNA, not protein, was the genetic material of life. Notable post-doctoral fellows in Hershey's lab include Anna Marie Skalka.

He became director of the Carnegie Institution (which later became Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) in 1962 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1969, shared with Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück for their discovery on the replication of viruses and their genetic structure.

In 1981, Hershey became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[2]

Hershey had one child, Peter Manning Hershey (1956-1999) with his wife Harriet (often called Impostor) (1918-2000). The family was active in the social network of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and regularly enjoyed the beach in season. Hershey was a Christian. Hershey died from congestive heart failure on 22 May 1997 at his home in Syosset, New York, at 88 years old.

After Hershey died, another phage worker, Frank Stahl, wrote: "The Phage Church, as we were sometimes called (see Phage group), was led by the Trinity of Delbrück, Luria, and Hershey. Delbrück's status as founder and his ex cathedra manner made him the pope, of course, and Luria was the hard-working, socially sensitive priest-confessor. And Al (Hershey) was the saint."[3]


  1. ^ HERSHEY AD, CHASE M. Independent functions of viral protein and nucleic acid in growth of bacteriophage. J Gen Physiol. 1952 May;36(1):39-56. doi: 10.1085/jgp.36.1.39. PMID 12981234; PMCID: PMC2147348.
  2. ^ "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  3. ^ "Biographical Memoirs Home". Retrieved April 9, 2018.