Avery, Oswald Theodore, 1877-1955

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Rufus Ivory Cole served as the the director and physician-in-charge (1909-1937) of the Hospital of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the first hospital in the United States devoted primarily to the investigation of disease. Cole's medical research centered on problems relating to immunity to diseases of the respiratory system, particularly pneumonia

From the guide to the Rufus Ivory Cole papers, ca. 1900-1966, 1900-1966, (American Philosophical Society)

Research physician and bacteriologist, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research; researcher on pneumonia; a founder of the science of immunochemistry; discovered the transforming nature of DNA.

From the description of Family papers, 1867-1970. (Tennessee State Library & Archives). WorldCat record id: 35132724

Biographical Sketch: Oswald T. Avery (1877-1955) received his A.B. in 1900 from Colgate University. Upon graduating from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1904, Avery entered general practice. In 1907, he moved to laboratory work at the Hoagland Laboratory (Brooklyn), the first privately endowed bacteriological research institute in the country. Avery moved to the Rockefeller Institute in 1913, where he focused most of his research for the next 35 years on a single species of pneumococcus, Diplococcus pneumoniae. After becoming a member emeritus at the Rockefeller Institute in 1943, Avery continued his research there until 1948. He received honorary degrees from McGill University, New York University, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University, as well as awards from organizations such as the American Public Health Association, the Royal Society of London, the American College of Physicians, the Association of American Physicians, and the New York Academy of Medicine.

From the description of Oswald T. Avery collection, 1909-1998. (National Library of Medicine). WorldCat record id: 49760953

Oswald Theodore Avery was born on October 21, 1877, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the child of British emigrants. When his father, a Baptist minister, was invited to become the pastor of a New York City church in 1887, the family moved to the Lower East Side. Avery attended both Colgate Academy and Colgate University, where, as a talented cornetist, he became leader of the college band. He received his A.B. in 1900. Upon graduating from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1904, Avery entered general practice. In 1907, however, frustrated by medicine's inability to help some patients, he moved to laboratory work at the Hoagland Laboratory (Brooklyn), the first privately endowed bacteriological research institute in the country. Here Avery established what René J. Dubos has called the pattern of his career - the "systematic effort to understand the biological activities of pathogenic bacteria through a knowledge of their chemical composition."

Avery came to the attention of Rufus Cole, the director of the Hospital of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, through his paper on secondary infections in pulmonary tuberculosis. Founded in 1910, the Hospital aimed to further medical research by enabling researchers to pursue laboratory and clinical investigations of the diseases treated in the hospital's wards. One of Cole's goals was to develop a therapeutic serum--like that which had been developed for diphtheria--for pneumonia, and to this end he asked Avery to join the Hospital's pneumonia research program. Avery moved to the Rockefeller Institute in 1913, where he focused most of his research for the next 35 years on a single species of pneumococcus, Diplococcus pneumoniae.

During World War I, Avery applied for the U.S. Army Medical Corps, but was rejected because he was still a Canadian citizen. He was accepted as a private, which qualified him for naturalization, and eventually commissioned a captain. Avery's wartime duties included instructing Army medical officers in the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia. The work of his lab also extended during this period to research on respiratory diseases of interest to the military, such as influenza and secondary pneumonic infections.

After becoming a member emeritus at the Rockefeller Institute in 1943, Avery continued his research there until 1948. He then moved to Nashville to be closer to his brother, Roy Avery, a bacteriologist at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. He died in Nashville on 20 February 1955 at the age of 77.

Avery achieved many honors during his career. He served as president of the American Association of Immunologists, the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists, and the Society of American Bacteriologists. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of a number of foreign learned societies, including the Royal Society of London. He received honorary degrees from McGill University, New York University, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University, as well as awards from organizations such as the American Public Health Association, the Royal Society of London, the American College of Physicians, the Association of American Physicians, and the New York Academy of Medicine.

  • 1887: Father moves family to New York City
  • 1900: Receives A.B. from Colgate University
  • 1904: Receives M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University practices medicine (general surgery) in New York City
  • 1907 - 13 : Associate Director, Hoagland Laboratory, Brooklyn (works with Benjamin White)
  • 1913 - 48 : Career at Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research [RIMR]
  • 1913: Becomes Assistant, Department of Hospital (October)
  • 1915: Becomes Associate, Department of Hospital (July 1st)
  • 1917: Works with Alphonse R. Dochez; serves in the US Army Medical Corps
  • 1918: Becomes a US citizen
  • 1919: Becomes an Associate Member at RIMR (July 1st)
  • 1923: Becomes a "Member" at RIMR (July 1st); works with Michael Heidelberger
  • 1943: Becomes Emeritus Member (July 1st); remains at RIMR until 1948
  • 1944: Publishes results of research with MacLeod and McCarty on the transforming principle
  • 1945: Receives the Copley Medal from the Royal Society of London
  • 1947: Receives the Lasker Award from the American Public Health Association
  • 1948: Retires to Nashville
  • 1955: Dies in Nashville (February 20th)
  • 1965: Avery Memorial Gateway dedicated at Rockefeller University
  • 1976: René J. Dubos's The Professor, The Institute, and DNA
  • 1985: Maclyn McCarty's The Transforming Principle: Discovering that Genes Are Made of DNA
  • 1921: Sc.D., Colgate University
  • 1929: American Association of Immunologists, President
  • 1932: John Phillips Memorial Award, American College of Physicians, Paul Ehrlich Gold Medal
  • 1934: American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists, President
  • 1935: LL.D., McGill University; National Academy of Sciences, Member
  • 1942: Society of American Bacteriologists, President
  • 1944: Royal Society of London, Foreign Member; Gold Medal, New York Academy of Medicine
  • 1945: Copley Medal, Royal Society of London; Kober Foundation Medal, Association of American Physicians
  • 1946: Charles Mickle Fellowship, University of Toronto
  • 1947: Sc.D., New York University; Lasker Award, American Public Health Association
  • 1949: Passano Foundation Award
  • 1950: Sc.D., University of Chicago; Pasteur Gold Medal, Swedish Medical Society, Stockholm
  • 1953: Sc.D., Rutgers University

From the guide to the Oswald T. Avery Collection, 1912-2005, (History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Heidelberger, Michael. Michael Heidelberger papers, 1901-1990 (bulk 1940-1975). National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Avery, Oswald Theodore, 1877-1955. Family papers, 1867-1970. Tennessee State Library & Archives, TSLA
referencedIn Michael Heidelberger Papers, 1901-1990 (bulk 1940-1975) History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Heidelberger, Michael. Michael Heidelberger [sound recording] : an oral history / interviewed by Harlan B. Phillips, Nov. 20-22, 1968. National Library of Medicine
creatorOf Avery, Oswald Theodore, 1877-1955. Oswald T. Avery collection, 1909-1998. National Library of Medicine
creatorOf Rufus Ivory Cole papers, ca. 1900-1966, 1900-1966 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Oswald T. Avery Collection, 1912-2005 History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
creatorOf Avery, Catherine Berry Pilcher, 1894-1984. Family papers, 1736-1971. Tennessee State Library & Archives, TSLA
referencedIn Cole, Rufus Ivory, 1872-1966. Papers, ca. 1900-1966. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith Association of American Physicians. corporateBody
associatedWith Avery, Catherine Berry Pilcher, 1894-1984. person
associatedWith Avery, Elizabeth Crowdy, 1843-1910. person
associatedWith Avery family. family
associatedWith Avery, Joseph Francis, 1847-1892. person
associatedWith Avery, Roy Crowdy, 1885-1972. person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Barker, Lewellys F., (Lewellys Franklin), 1867-1943 person
associatedWith Beaux, Cecilia, 1855-1942 person
associatedWith Cattell, James McKeen, 1860-1944 person
associatedWith Chesney, Alan M., (Alan Mason), 1888-1964 person
associatedWith Christian, Henry A., (Henry Arthur), 1931- person
associatedWith Cohn, Alfred E., (Alfred Einstein), 1879-1957 person
associatedWith Cole, Annie Hegler person
associatedWith Cole, Rufus Ivory, 1872-1966. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Corner, George Washington, 1889-1981 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Dubos, René J. (René Jules), 1901-1982 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Ehrlich, Paul, 1854-1915 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Faber, Knud, 1862-1956 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Flexner, Abraham, 1866-1959 person
associatedWith Flexner, Simon, 1863-1946 person
associatedWith Fosdick, Harry Emerson, 1878-1969 person
associatedWith Fulton, John F., (John Farquhar), 1899-1960 person
associatedWith Gay, Frederick P., (Frederick Parker), 1874-1939 person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Goodpasture, Ernest William, 1886-1960 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Greene, Jerome D. person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Harvey Society of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Heidelberger, Michael. person
associatedWith Heidelberger, Michael, b. 1888 person
associatedWith Herter, Christian Archibald, 1865-1910 person
associatedWith Johns Hopkins University. corporateBody
associatedWith Lederberg, Joshua person
associatedWith Lederberg, Joshua. person
associatedWith McCarty, Maclyn person
associatedWith Moe, Henry Allen, 1894-1975 person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith New York Academy of Medicine. corporateBody
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Redi, Francesco, 1626-1698 person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. corporateBody
associatedWith Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Hospital. corporateBody
associatedWith Rockefeller, John D., (John Davison), 1874-1960 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sturgis, Cyrus Cressey, 1891-1966 person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith United States. Army. Sanitary Corps. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Slyke, Donald Dexter, 1883-1971 person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith Welch, William Henry, 1850-1934 person
associatedWith Williams, Linsly R., (Linsly Rudd), 1875-1934 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Great Britain
Subject
Bacterial Typing Techniques
DNA--Research
Genetics, Microbial
Transformation, Genetic
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Bacterial Vaccines
Medicine--Research--United States
History
World War, 1914-1918
Transformation, Bacterial
Recombination, Genetic
Immune Sera
Pneumococcal Infections
Antigens
Bacteriology--Research
Molecular biology
Hospitals--New York (State)--Administration
Immunochemistry--Research
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1877-10-21

Death 1955-02-02

German,

English

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