The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

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9780140268775: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

The greatest achievement of science in the twentieth century ... It will be an enormous success, and deserves to be so - a classic in the sense it will go on being read' - Sir Peter Medawar Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry by elucidating the structure of DNA - and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time Watson was only 24, with more interest in girls than in chemistry. His uncompromisingly honest account of those heady days lifts the lid on the real world of greatscientists and the extraordinary excitement of their desperate attempts to beat Linus Pauling to the solution to one of the great enigmas of the life sciences.

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Review:

"Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders," writes James Watson in The Double Helix, his account of his codiscovery (along with Francis Crick) of the structure of DNA. Watson and Crick won Nobel Prizes for their work, and their names are memorised by biology students around the world. But as in all of history, the real story behind the deceptively simple outcome was messy, intense, and sometimes truly hilarious. To preserve the "real" story for the world, James Watson attempted to record his first impressions as soon after the events of 1951-1953 as possible, with all their unpleasant realities and "spirit of adventure" intact.

Watson holds nothing back when revealing the petty sniping and backbiting among his colleagues, while acknowledging that he himself was a willing participant in the melodrama. In particular, Watson reveals his mixed feelings about his famous colleague in discovery, Francis Crick, who many thought of as an arrogant man who talked too much, and whose brilliance was appreciated by few. This is the joy of The Double Helix--instead of a chronicle of stainless-steel heroes toiling away in their sparkling labs, Watson's chronicle gives readers an idea of what living science is like, warts and all. The Double Helix is a startling window into the scientific method, full of insight and wit, and packed with the kind of science anecdotes that are told and retold in the halls of universities and laboratories everywhere. It's the stuff of legends.--Therese Littleton

About the Author:

James Watson was born in Chicago in 1928. He studied zoology at the University of Chicago, and was awarded his Ph.D. at Indiana University in 1950. Between 1950 and 1953 he worked at Copenhagen and Cambridge, where together with Francis Crick he solved the structure of DNA, for which they received a share of the Nobel Prize in 1962. His other publications include THE MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE GENE and THE MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL. He lives in the USA.

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