The Most Beautiful Experiment: Meselson and Stahl

See the Explorer’s Guide to Biology for a first-person and in-depth description of Meselson and Stahl’s studies, as well as educational resources associated with their foundational key experiment:

Matt Meselson and Frank Stahl share the story of their groundbreaking experiment from 1958 that definitively showed semiconservative DNA replication.

Matt Meselson and Frank Stahl were in their mid-20s when they performed what is now recognized as one of the most beautiful experiments in modern biology. In this short film, Matt and Frank share how they devised the groundbreaking experiment that proved semiconservative DNA replication, what it was like to see the results for the first time, and how it felt to be at the forefront of molecular biology research in the 1950s. This film celebrates a lifelong friendship, a shared love of science, and the serendipity that can lead to foundational discoveries about the living world.

0:00 Introduction
2:01 The Spark
4:14 The Very Beginning
5:23 A Gorgeous Insight
7:59 Serendipity
9:45 Three Targets
14:36 That’s Replication
17:49 The Fundamental Things
20:27 Epilogue and Credits

Speaker Biographies:
Matthew Meselson:
Dr. Meselson has made important contributions to the areas of DNA replication, repair and recombination as well as isolating the first restriction enzyme. Currently, he is Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University, where his lab studies aging in the model organism bdelloid rotifers. Meselson is also a long-time advocate for the abolition of biological and chemical weapons. He has received many honors, including a Lasker Award in 2004.

Frank Stahl:
Frank Stahl received his PhD at the University of Rochester, where he studied genetic recombination in phage. He performed postdoctoral studies at Caltech, during which he completed the famous Meselson-Stahl experiment, and joined the faculty at the University of Oregon in Eugene in 1959. He is now an emeritus faculty member who enjoys teaching and family life, and the natural wonders of Oregon.

Credits for webpage:
Elliot Kirschner (Wonder Collaborative): Executive Producer
Shannon Behrman (iBiology): Executive Producer
Brittany Anderton (iBiology): Producer
Derek Reich (ZooPrax Productions): Videographer
Eric Kornblum (iBiology): Videographer
Rebecca Ellsworth (The Edit Center): Editor
Adam Bolt (The Edit Center): Editor
Gb Kim (Explorer’s Guide to Biology): Illustrations
Chris George: Design and Graphics
Maggie Hubbard: Design and Graphics
Marcus Bagala: Original music
Samuel Bagala: Original music

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Comment (200)

  1. What a thoroughly enjoyable video! I had so much fun watching it. Biology is cool and it has always been cool. I am glad these guys were around to contribute to our collective understand of life.

  2. this podcast is proof how mediocre our society is, a podcast with this magnifiscance only reaches 18,000 views in 15 days, it is truly the era of decadence, Well done Ibiology, I love your chanel

  3. I am grateful to know two of our most respected scientists who have confirmed the Watson-Crick model are still amongst us. Studying microbiology in this period of scientific development it’s hard to believe that the founding fathers of the DNA model are still alive, thank you for loving science and helping it grow. Stay healthy, and stay safe. Thank you 😊

  4. Wow! Just wow. This is the most wonderful thing I've seen in a long time. Thank you for bringing these two together and having them share their work and friendship with us. This is a treasure.

  5. These were the most beautiful 22 minutes. I really loved the video and do good to see them alive and talking about how they made it through and introduced the concept of semi-conservative replication to the world. So thankful to these men.

  6. Thank you so much iBiology for providing this amazing interview with two of my scientist heroes.
    When learning about semiconservative DNA replication, first at school and then again at university, I never thought I'd be able to see Meselson and Stahl in an interview.

  7. This is so so so beautiful. Wish there was more content like this on the internet.

    The world is run by the scientists working day and night and not the celebrities dancing with the sharks.

    Scientists need more respect and exposure.

  8. Studied their experiment in 11th grade, and i remember how bad i too wanted to perform it by my self. Unfortunately couldn't do it at school level. Watching these guys today, surely made the experiment even more BEAUTIFUL for me.

  9. I had read about ur experiment in my biology text book….really awesome to listen to ur experience and witness u both together….thank u so much for this video ❤️❤️

  10. I was unaware that they're alive, it's such an honour to see you sir! Regards from me, big fan of your work! Thank you so much for this video. I'm very grateful to encounter this video.

  11. I got really emotional watching this video… I've been studying about their experiment all the time and now watching how they look and how their voices are is incredible. Thank you!

  12. This Video made my day…. What ever i study in my books about this experiment.. I never thought they are alive…. Its is really big moment for me to understand this theory.. by legends … This video made my 2020 at the last month i worth it … ❤🙏🙏🙏❤❤🙏❤ you were my favorite 🙏❤

  13. Just wow…glad to listen to these 2 geniuses…they seem best buddies & so nostalgic remembering all that stuff…just observe their great sense of humour… it's delightful to see them explain all that in person… how beautifully presented…! Thanks 😇❤️ Please bring more such interesting scientific videos.

  14. On the eve of this Christmas evening, i was reading my Molecular biology book and just after finishing my sub unit , "Semi conservative mode of DNA replication " i opened YouTube and this was the 1st recommendation video , Am so much fortunate that i am watching these two novel laureates . Respect from India 🤝🤝🤝

  15. Wow I found this unexpectedly and GOD I'M SO GLAD! Not everyday you get to listen to two of the most greatest scientists of all times in biology, and that too such candidly! 😍I loved EVERY part of it! 😍❤️❤️

  16. I kinda hated these names because I didn’t get it and had to know the experiment for my next class test, but these guys are such wholesome grannies lol you can’t not like them

  17. I don't know how to express my emotions now but they are adorable and when we think about their work for science it's a really hard thing that not everyone can do. I also wanted to have friendships and scientific area like them but I think it diffıcult in a new world now it is very competitive and limited , sad but true 🙁 Hope you live long and healthy

  18. Ugh these men are amazing! what a blessing to hear them talk about their own experiment and see their personalities shine through at the same time!

  19. For us all they are way more than they think it's really fate they get so see this modern and covid period ❤️❤️❤️ love u

  20. Would you please consider posting a full version of the interview? I would love to listen to all of the jokes and laughter! Thank you.

  21. I loved the video, but it would also be good to highlight the contributions of J. Herbert Taylor of Columbia University who practically discovered the same thing, however with a different approach a year before the publication of Meselson and Stahl.


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