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Walter Stanborough Sutton

(1877—1916)


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(1877–1916)

US geneticist who gave the first clear formulation of the theory that chromosomes carry the physical units that determine inheritance.

Suttor first studied engineering at the University of Kansas but switched to biology, graduating in 1900. He then moved to Columbia University to work with the geneticist Edmund Beecher Wilson (1856–1939). Sutton discovered that the chromosomes of the grasshopper Brachystola magna could be identified individually and their behaviour followed during the cell division (meiosis) prior to gamete formation. He confirmed previous suggestions that maternal and paternal chromosomes form holologous pairs in the dividing cell and he established that these pairs are quite randomly separated during cell division, leading to random assortment of maternal and paternal chromosomes in the gametes. Sutton saw that this random assortment of homologous chromosomes was consistent with Mendel's principle of independent assortment of characters and accordingly proposed that the chromosomes carried the physical determinants of heredity. Sutton also realized that this implied linkage of determinants carried by the same chromosome – a theory later modified by T. H. Morgan's discovery of crossing over.

Sutton's famous work was published in three papers during the years 1900–03. Thereafter he turned to medicine, receiving his MD in 1907. After two years at the Roosevelt Hospital, New York, he entered private practice as a surgeon in Kansas City.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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