Even without understanding any of the scientific data processed here, the general reader will find it hard to remain immune to this account of how J.D. Watson, along with another bright, volatile young man—Francis Crick, discovered DNA, the fundamental genetic material.
This is a memoir of "the way I saw things then, in 1951-1953, the ideas, the people and myself"—among them Sir Lawrence Bragg (who contributes the foreword here) who was their superior in the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University and who, midway, told them to stop tinkering with the project: Maurice Wilkins, who had a vested interest in DNA and had been working for many years on it: and Linus Pauling, Cal Tech's great scientist, who during this time came up with another structure whose chemistry was "screwy." What emerges here is not only a story of a scientific scrimmage as competitive as the race to the moon—but also a happy sense of surprise that anything as seemingly assiduous and systematic as pure science could be so much the result of random speculations at lunch and teatime and anything from light to "solid fiddling" at odd hours.
It all seems remarkably fresh and impulsive and adventitious.
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