Watson and Crick and the Discovery of DNA's Structure Essay

Pages: 5 (2068 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Genetics

However, Watson's account of getting privileged early access to Pauling's own three-strand structure model -- which he manages to see because a draft of Pauling's paper had been sent to Pauling's son Peter, whom Watson knows as a fellow American in Cambridge -- also demonstrates some of the other larger themes of the book. Upon looking at Pauling's model, Watson is able to tell that it contains a fundamental error -- "Pauling's nucleic acid was in a sense not an acid at all" -- in much the same way that Franklin was able to spot the fundamental error of Watson and Crick's three-strand model (Watson 160). The difference, though, is that Watson does not inform Pauling of the error, as Franklin had informed Watson and Crick of theirs. Instead, Watson's response is to think "we were still in the game," and to benefit from Pauling's basic error by hurrying to come up with a workable solution -- which, after getting Wilkins to show Franklin's B-structure photograph -- they manage to do (Watson 161).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Essay on Watson and Crick and the Discovery of DNA's Structure Assignment

In arguing that the greatest scientific gift that Watson and Crick demonstrated was that of being able to synthesize the work, the data, and the methodology of other scientists, it is difficult to say which particular element in their synthesis was the most important and enabled them to make the ultimate discovery. Certainly in Watson's own account, the tipping point would appear to occur in Chapter 23, when Wilkins gives him access to Franklin's B-structure photograph: this is where Watson describes how "my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race" (Watson 167). Given the substantial debate about Franklin's role in the discovery of DNA, it is clear that this moment is probably as important as Watson emphasizes. The handling of Franklin is one of the most perplexing and disturbing aspects of The Double Helix, considering how many inappropriate comments are made (about her lack of lipstick, her "emotional" manner, her frumpy clothing) throughout the text and how ultimately the closing paragraph of the Epilogue seems to be an apology of sorts. The truth, however, of Watson's account is that the discovery hinged upon having not only the best available data, but also the proper theoretical approach. In some sense, the real message of The Double Helix is an attempt on Watson's part to explain why Franklin had failed to correctly interpret the B-structure photograph herself -- if she had recognized it, the Nobel Prize might have been hers alone. But Watson's emphasis on her resistance to helical models altogether is intended to show why Franklin herself did not ultimately use her one most valuable piece of data to make the final step of discovery by herself. However, it goes without saying that -- however Watson may treat Franklin over the course of The Double Helix -- it was presumably Rosalind Franklin (and the data provided by her superior photographs) that was the one factor that was more important than any of the others in allowing Watson and Crick to discover the structure of the DNA molecule.

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