Reflection Of The Double Helix

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The Double Helix tells a tale of fierce competition, perseverance, and scientific innovation as we follow James Watson and his cohort Francis Crick on their quest to discover the secret to life, the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Although already fascinated with DNA, Watson struggled with finding chemistry exciting enough to learn it in depth. He had studied birds in college and thereby managed to avoid any formal chemistry or physics courses. As he later pursued a PhD in biochemistry, he realized he could put it off no longer and attempted to learn organic chemistry at Indiana University. However, after a mishap in the lab, he was encouraged instead to study nucleic acid chemistry with Herman Kalckar in Copenhagen. There, his mind strayed from his work and he began doing unauthorized research in the lab of Ole Maaløe, studying phages. Herman stopped teaching Watson after going through a divorce with his wife, and sent Watson off to a scientific conference in Naples. Although he was bored by many of the lectures, Maurice Wilkins’s talk about X-ray diffraction fascinated Watson. He was struck by an X-ray diffraction picture of DNA that Maurice presented and was determined to study the acid. He later got to know more about Maurice’s colleague, Rosalind Franklin, who was proud, stubborn, and very difficult to work with. Watson greatly admired the lecture given by the renowned Linus Pauling, who had discovered the structure of the alpha-helix and was thought of as the leader in DNA research in the scientific world.
After scoping out the DNA-research picture, Watson got a job at the Cambridge lab where Francis Crick, Max Perutz, and Sir Lawrence Bragg were working. Francis was rumored to be immodest and exceedingly talkative, ...

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...e also realized that an adenine-thymine pair with two hydrogen bonds was identical in shape to a guanine-cytosine pair with two hydrogen bonds. This opened up the possibility of A-T and G-C pairs, rather than pairs of identical bases. Using Pauling’s ignorance of his mistake to their advantage, Watson and Crick rushed to put the metal model together and write a paper to be published in Nature so they could beat Pauling to the answer. Although they had been exceedingly cautious not to get ahead of themselves and publish a premature manuscript that would later turn out to have a major fault, they now felt they had enough evidence to confidently publish their findings. Indeed, a few days later, they sent the manuscript to the scientific journal with a strong cover letter from Bragg and their research was soon thereafter published, changing the scientific world forever.

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