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Martha Chase

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Martha Cowles Chase
BornNovember 30, 1927(1927-11-30)
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA
DiedAugust 8, 2003(2003-08-08) (aged 75)
Lorain, Ohio, USA
ResidenceUnited States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materCollege of Wooster, University of Southern California

Martha Cowles Chase (November 30, 1927 – August 8, 2003), also known as Martha C. Epstein,[1] was an American geneticist known for having experimentally showed in 1952 (with Alfred Hershey) that DNA rather than protein is the genetic material of life.

Early Life and Education

Chase was born in 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1950 she received her bachelor's degree from the College of Wooster. In 1964 Chase received her PhD from the University of Southern California.[2]

Research and Later Life

In 1952 Chase was a young laboratory assistant to American bacteriophage expert Alfred Hershey at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution for Science. This was where the well-known Hershey-Chase experiment was performed. The experiment , otherwise known as the 'blender experiment' showed that it was DNA, and not protein, that was the genetic material through which traits were inherited.[3]

A series of personal setbacks through the 1960s ended Chase's career in science.[1] She spent decades suffering from a form of dementia that affected her short-term memory.[4] She died of pneumonia on August 8, 2003, at the age of 75.[1]

Key paper


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dawson, Milly (2003-08-20). "Martha Chase dies". The Scientist. Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  2. Lavietes, Stuart. "Martha Chase, 75, a Researcher Who Aided in DNA Experiment". The New York Times. 
  3. David E Sadava; et al, Life: The Science of Biology (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates ; Gordonsville, VA: W.H. Freeman and Co., 2008), p. 235
  4. Peter Haugen, Biology: Decade by Decade (New York: Facts On File, 2007), p. 130

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