There is no doubt regarding the significance of the discovery of the structure of DNA to science and the pursuit to understand the essence of human existence. Considering the importance of DNA, it is not surprising that James D. Watson Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Yet, the path towards the discovery of the double helix was not a singular pursuit by Watson, Crick and Wilkins. Many scientists were also trying to find the building block of human physiology and thus the controversy regarding it.
Watson’s gives a personal account of the process of discovery of DNA in The Double Helix which was first published in 1968. The book relates the intense competition that surrounded the discovery of the DNA and the personal struggles of this scientific challenge. When the book was first published by the Harvard University Press, Crick and Wilkins protested the publication because the ethical issues regarding the lack of recognition of some of the researches, particularly that of Rosalind Franklin, that became the basis on the DNA discovery.
The book begins by introducing Crick, with whom Watson had the most collaboration with, and their obsession to break the basis of the genetic code which was considered as the Holy Grail of Science in their time. Watson presents an intimate perspective on the various personalities that influenced their researches, often relating the clashes and disappointments encountered in their research.
Watson particular sights the use of the X-ray as one of the most critical factors t hat eventually led to their success and the influence of fate in guiding the direction of their research like in their encounters with Erwin Chargaff and Jerry Donohue. More than anything, the book The Double Helix emphasized the magnitude of the competition in the scientific community that traditionally was viewed as staid and demure. It humanized the scientists and their pursuits showing both follies and glories.
It showed that the scientific community’s driven and relentless pursuit of prestige through research and discoveries. It changed the genre of scientific writing and at the same time presented the importance of point of view not only before and during the discoveries but also their importance of historical perspectives of the great discoveries of mankind. Reference Watson, James D. (2001) The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. New York: Touchstone