Discovery of the Structure of DNA
On the last day of February in 1953, according to James Watson, Francis Crick announced to the patrons of the Eagle Pub in Cambridge, “We have discovered the secret of life” (Watson 115, 1980). As Brian Hayes, the author of “The Invention of the Genetic Code” states, “If life ever had a secret, the double helix of DNA was surely it” (1). However, it was not the work of these two men alone that led to the discovery of the power the lies within the double helix, but rather the work of many scientists that was carefully picked apart and pieced together by the two who received the most fame for the work.
Scientists’ knowledge of DNA was reported as early as 1868, when the Swiss physician Fritz Miescher discovered its presence in the nuclei of cells (Frank-Kamenetskii 10, 1997). Until the study of the structure of DNA led to the discovery of its function, proteins were primarily thought to be the carriers of genetic material. Although the chemical composition of DNA was Francis Crick known and understood, scientists were unable to make conclusions about its function (Patterson 17, 1999). In 1958, Crick presented his scientific paper, “On Protein Synthesis” at the Society for Experimental Biology. Within his text he states, “It is an essential feature of my argument that in biology proteins are uniquely important . . . their nearest rivals are the nucleic acids. Watson said to me, a few years ago, ‘The most significant thing about nucleic acids is that we don’t know what they do.’ By contrast, the most significant thing about proteins is that they can do almost anything” (Carlson 236, 1989). Watson’s statement led the pair to further investigate the mystery of life by delving through other’s work and toiling over their own. Consequently, their discovery led to worldwide recognition of their names, as well as the development of the field of molecular biology.
On April 25, 1953, a short article published in Nature revealed the genetic function of DNA as it had been discovered through a study of its structure (Watson and Crick 737, 1953). Within their text, James Watson and Francis Crick proposed a model that showed how deoxyribonucleic acid could contain long, coded messages (Patterson 17, 1999).
These coded patterns allowed for all traits within living things to be passed from one generation to the next, therefore unraveling a mystery that had previously been troubling to scientists. Colin Patterson, the author of Evolution, exclaims, “This model—the double helix—with its biological implications ranks as the greatest contribution to biology since the work of Darwin and Mendel, something that is obvious enough from the fact that the acronym DNA and the image of the double helix are among the icons of late twentieth-century culture” (17-18, 1999). Watson and Crick have not always had the recognition they now possess, but rather came from humble backgrounds and tested many...