Hermann Muller was born in New York in 1890. He studied medicine and later taught at Columbia University and at the University of Texas at Austin. Because of his communist views, he moved to the USSR where he served as a senior geneticist at the Academy of Sciences. He returned to the United States in 1940, and continued his research. He died in 1967.
Hermann Muller was awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1946, “for the discovery of the production of mutations by means of X-ray irradiation.”
The chromosomes that carry our genes transfer a detailed system of hereditary information from parent to child, and also supply the cells with the necessary `instructions’ for reproduction. However, Chemical flaws, mutations, can sometimes occur, and cause dysfunction in the cell. Mutations can also cause genetic defects.
Muller’s research on Drosophila flies showed that exposure to X-rays increased the rate of mutation in cells. A similar phenomenon was found in X-rays technicians and patients treated by them.
Nuclear radiation has a similar effect, and today we know that the use of chemical materials that are not radioactive can also cause the same results.