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1911: Fruit Flies Illuminate the Chromosome Theory

Photo of Thomas Morgan's research laboratoryUsing fruit flies as a model organism, Thomas Hunt Morgan and his group at Columbia University showed that genes, strung on chromosomes, are the units of heredity.

Morgan and his students made many important contributions to genetics. His students, who included such important geneticists as Alfred Sturtevant, Hermann Muller and Calvin Bridges, studied the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. They showed that chromosomes carry genes, discovered genetic linkage - the fact that genes are arrayed on linear chromosomes - and described chromosome recombination.

In 1933, Morgan received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for helping establish the chromosome theory of inheritance.


More Information


Rubin, G.M., Lewis, E.B., A Brief History of Drosophila's Contributions to Genome Research. Science, 287(5461):2216-8. 2000. [PubMed]

Morgan, Thomas Hunt, et. al., "The mechanism of Mendelian heredity", (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1915)

Images of Early Fly Drawing; Photo of Morgan; Morgan's Fly Room


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Last Reviewed: April 22, 2013