Charlotte Auerbach sits at her desk with a typewriter and cup of tea

Charlotte Auerbach (1899–1994) was a renowned German-British geneticist known for her groundbreaking work in the field of mutagenesis, the study of mutations in DNA. Born on May 14, 1899, in Krefeld, Germany, Auerbach’s early interest in biology led her to pursue a career in genetics.

Auerbach’s contributions to science were particularly notable during her time at the University of Edinburgh. In the 1940s, she conducted pioneering research on the mutagenic effects of chemical substances, particularly mustard gas. Her experiments demonstrated that exposure to certain chemicals could induce mutations in DNA, leading to genetic changes and potential health risks. Auerbach’s work laid the foundation for the field of chemical mutagenesis and significantly advanced our understanding of the genetic basis of diseases.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Auerbach fled Germany due to her Jewish heritage and settled in the United Kingdom. There, she continued her research at the University of Edinburgh and later at the University of Leicester. Her studies on mutagenesis and genetic toxicology influenced subsequent generations of scientists and provided valuable insights into the effects of various chemicals on DNA.

Throughout her career, Auerbach received numerous accolades for her scientific achievements, including the prestigious Royal Medal from the Royal Society. She dedicated her life to advancing genetic research and promoting the importance of understanding the mutagenic properties of chemical agents. Charlotte Auerbach’s groundbreaking work has had a lasting impact on the field of genetics, contributing to our knowledge of mutations and their implications for human health and disease.

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