Finally, in 1944, after fifteen years of effort, a team at the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan, led by a brilliant but diffident Canadian named Oswald Avery, succeeded with an exceedingly tricky experiment in which an innocuous strain of bacteria was made permanently infectious by crossing it with alien DNA, proving that DNA was far more than a passive molecule and almost certainly was the active agent in heredity. The Austrian-born biochemist Erwin Chargaff later suggested quite seriously that Avery's discovery was worth two Nobel Prizes.
Unfortunately, Avery was opposed by one of his own colleagues at the institute, a strong-willed and disagreeable protein enthusiast named Alfred Mirsky, who did everything in his power to discredit Avery's work — including, it has been said, lobbying the authorities at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm not to give Avery a Nobel Prize. Avery by this time was sixty-six years old and tired. Unable to deal with the stress and controversy, he resigned his position and never went near a lab again. But other experiments elsewhere overwhelmingly supported his conclusions, and soon the race was on to find the structure of DNA.