His work on bacteria led to the discovery of genes, and as such could be studied in genetic research. He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his revolutionary work in 1969.
Settling in the U.S., he took up work at Vanderbilt University, where his experiments with viruses infection bacteria showed that bacteria can mutate and develop resistance.
He was born to a prominent Italian Sephardic Jewish Family, which lost much of its fortune after the rise to power of Mussolini.
He shared his 1969 Nobel Prize with fellow researchers Max Delbruck and Alfred Hershey.