Today in History: Watson and Crick Decipher DNA

| February 28, 2018

180226_News_219x365Can you imagine the significance of unlocking the secret of creation? If so, you’d appreciate the fervent race to determine the structure of DNA, the hereditary material found in humans and almost all living organisms. Maybe you did not realize that behind two great men, American molecular biologist James Watson and British biophysicist and neuroscientist Francis Crick, (indeed a “third man”, New Zealand born physicist and molecular biologist Maurice Wilkins) stood English chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, a great woman whose remarkable achievements were recognized only posthumously? It is a fascinating story — oft described as a lonely and competitive tale — with a bearing on scientific knowledge and how we live and work; for it is not just about cracking the genetic code, but also personal and professional ethics in doing what’s right; giving credit where it’s due; and continuing to learn.

Leading University of Cambridge scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announce their discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes, on February 28, 1953. They found that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) replicated itself in being a spiral structure in which two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, separated. This amazing break through led to further advances in science and technology: pre-natal screening of disease; identification of human remains; treatments for other diseases; genetically engineered foods — rather, how genes determine living bodies and are passed between generations.

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.



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