The Double Helix by James D. WatsonBy identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry & won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only 24, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of sciences greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions & bitter rivalries. With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his & Cricks desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences, the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work.
Discovery of the structure of DNA
On this day in , Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Francis H. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes. In the early s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA. California chemist Linus Pauling suggested an incorrect model at the beginning of , prompting Watson and Crick to try and beat Pauling at his own game. On the morning of February 28, they determined that the structure of DNA was a double-helix polymer, or a spiral of two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, wound around each other.
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. In reality, this is not the case. Then, in the decades following Miescher's discovery, other scientists--notably, Phoebus Levene and Erwin Chargaff--carried out a series of research efforts that revealed additional details about the DNA molecule, including its primary chemical components and the ways in which they joined with one another. Without the scientific foundation provided by these pioneers, Watson and Crick may never have reached their groundbreaking conclusion of that the DNA molecule exists in the form of a three-dimensional double helix. Although few people realize it, was a landmark year in genetic research, because it was the year in which Swiss physiological chemist Friedrich Miescher first identified what he called "nuclein" inside the nuclei of human white blood cells. The term "nuclein" was later changed to " nucleic acid " and eventually to " deoxyribonucleic acid ," or "DNA. Miescher thus made arrangements for a local surgical clinic to send him used, pus-coated patient bandages; once he received the bandages, he planned to wash them, filter out the leukocytes, and extract and identify the various proteins within the white blood cells.
In , he co-authored with James Watson the academic paper proposing the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Together with Watson and Maurice Wilkins , he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the helical structure of DNA. He is widely known for the use of the term " central dogma " to summarize the idea that once information is transferred from nucleic acids DNA or RNA to proteins, it cannot flow back to nucleic acids. In other words, the final step in the flow of information from nucleic acids to proteins is irreversible.
Discovering the Structure of DNA
The discovery in of the double helix, the twisted-ladder structure of deoxyribonucleic acid DNA , by James Watson and Francis Crick marked a milestone in the history of science and gave rise to modern molecular biology, which is largely concerned with understanding how genes control the chemical processes within cells. In short order, their discovery yielded ground-breaking insights into the genetic code and protein synthesis. During the s and s, it helped to produce new and powerful scientific techniques, specifically recombinant DNA research, genetic engineering, rapid gene sequencing, and monoclonal antibodies, techniques on which today's multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry is founded. Major current advances in science, namely genetic fingerprinting and modern forensics, the mapping of the human genome, and the promise, yet unfulfilled, of gene therapy, all have their origins in Watson and Crick's inspired work. The double helix has not only reshaped biology, it has become a cultural icon, represented in sculpture, visual art, jewelry, and toys. Researchers working on DNA in the early s used the term "gene" to mean the smallest unit of genetic information, but they did not know what a gene actually looked like structurally and chemically, or how it was copied, with very few errors, generation after generation. In , Oswald Avery had shown that DNA was the "transforming principle," the carrier of hereditary information, in pneumococcal bacteria.
Neither suggestion is true. In April , the scientific journal Nature published three back-to-back articles on the structure of DNA, the material our genes are made of. Together, they constituted one of the most important scientific discoveries in history. The first, purely theoretical, article was written by Watson and Crick from the University of Cambridge. The model the Cambridge duo put forward did not simply describe the DNA molecule as a double helix.