James Watson's The Double Helix

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James Watson's The Double Helix

James Watson's account of the events that led to the discovery of the

structure of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) is a very witty narrative, and

shines light on the nature of scientists. Watson describes the many key events

that led to the eventual discovery of the structure of DNA in a scientific

manner, while including many experiences in his life that happened at the same

time which really have no great significant impact on the discovery of the DNA


The Double Helix begins with a brief description of some of the

individuals that played a significant role in the discovery of DNA structure.

Francis Crick is the one individual that may have influenced Watson the most in

the discovery. Crick seemed to be a loud and out spoken man. He never was

afraid to express his opinion or suggestions to others. Watson appreciated

Crick for this outspoken nature, while others could not bear Crick because of

this nature. Maurice Wilkins was a much calmer and quieter man that worked in

London at King's College. Wilkins was the initial person that excited Watson on

DNA research. Wilkins had an assistant, Rosalind Franklin (also known as Rosy).

Initially, Wilkins thought that Rosy was supposed to be his assistant in

researching the structure of DNA because of her expertise in crystallography;

however, Rosy did not want to be thought of as anybody's assistant and let her

feelings be known to others. Throughout the book there is a drama between

Wilkins and Rosy, a drama for the struggle of power between the two.

Watson's "adventure" begins when he receives a grant to leave the United

States and go to Copenhagen to do his postdoctoral work with a biochemist named

Herman Kalckar. Watson found that studying biochemistry was not as exciting as

he hoped it would be; fortunately, he met up with Ole Maaloe, another scientist

doing research on phages (Watson studied phages intensively while in graduate

school). He found himself helping Ole with many of his experiments and soon he

was helping Ole with his experiments more than he was helping Herman with his

experiments. At first, Watson felt like he was deceiving the board of trustees

by not studying the material that the board sent him to study. However, Watson

felt justified because Herman was becoming less and less interested in teaching

Watson because of Herman's current personal affairs (Herman and his wife decided

to get a divorce). With Herman's lack of interest in teaching biochemistry,
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