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Frederick Griffith

Born: c. 1877
Birthplace: Hale, Cheshire, England
Died: 16-Apr-1941
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: War

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Biologist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Discovered the transforming principle

Little is known about the life of British microbiologist Frederick Griffith. Colleagues described him as brilliant but reclusive, and he published only a few papers on his research, but his landmark paper, published in 1928, secured his place in the annals of scientific history. The paper showed that a nonpathogenic strain of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumonaie could be induced to take on the disease-causing characteristics of a different strain, a finding which formed the foundation of the transforming principle.

Griffith's paper drew substantial attention, and by the time of his death in a 1941 Axis bombing of London, further research inspired by his work had led to progress against puerperal fever, scarlet fever, surgical sepsis, and infections from wounds. The ultimate importance of his paper, however, was not truly understood until a decade after his death, as further research by Oswald Avery and others concluded that the transforming agent described by Griffith is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and that DNA carries information within the cell.

Brother: Arthur Stanley Griffith (microbiologist)

    Medical School: MB, University of Liverpool (1901)
    University: DPH, Oxford University (1910)

    UK Official Pathologist, Ministry of Health (1911-41)
    Honourable Society of Gray's Inn


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