Discovery of the Structure of DNA

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Discovery of the Structure of DNA

On the last day of February in 1953, according to James Watson, Francis Crick announced to the patrons of the Eagle Pub in Cambridge, “We have discovered the secret of life” (Watson 115, 1980). As Brian Hayes, the author of “The Invention of the Genetic Code” states, “If life ever had a secret, the double helix of DNA was surely it” (1). However, it was not the work of these two men alone that led to the discovery of the power the lies within the double helix, but rather the work of many scientists that was carefully picked apart and pieced together by the two who received the most fame for the work.

Scientists’ knowledge of DNA was reported as early as 1868, when the Swiss physician Fritz Miescher discovered its presence in the nuclei of cells (Frank-Kamenetskii 10, 1997). Until the study of the structure of DNA led to the discovery of its function, proteins were primarily thought to be the carriers of genetic material. Although the chemical composition of DNA was Francis Crick known and understood, scientists were unable to make conclusions about its function (Patterson 17, 1999). In 1958, Crick presented his scientific paper, “On Protein Synthesis” at the Society for Experimental Biology. Within his text he states, “It is an essential feature of my argument that in biology proteins are uniquely important . . . their nearest rivals are the nucleic acids. Watson said to me, a few years ago, ‘The most significant thing about nucleic acids is that we don’t know what they do.’ By contrast, the most significant thing about proteins is that they can do almost anything” (Carlson 236, 1989). Watson’s statement led the pair to further investigate the mystery of life by delving through ot...

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