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Lecture

NATS 1860 BOOK REVIEW

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Department
Natural Science
Course
NATS 1860
Professor
Jill Lazenby
Semester
Winter

Description
Controversy Surrounding the B Form X-ray Photograph The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA By James D. Watson, Touchstone, 2001 The Double Helix written by James D. Watson tells of a great discovery made in the th 20 century, but I will discuss the relationship between Watson and Crick and the B form photograph. This paper is for those who are interested in how the structure of DNA was truly discovered. An important aspect of The Double Helix is the controversy surrounding the B form photograph and how it was utilized to come to the discovery of the structure of DNA. The key arguments regarding the controversy of the B form photograph is how it was because of this photograph that the discovery of the structure of DNA was possible, the B form photograph received little recognition in Watson and Crick’s publication of the double helix and finally, the manner in which the photograph came into the hands of Watson and Crick stirred up much controversy. In The Double Helix, Watson is subtle when he and Crick publish their final findings in Nature magazine because what he forgot to mention in the book is that the B form photograph led to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Would Watson still be credited for finding the double helix without the B form photograph? It is a question that unfortunately will never be answered, but it is clear that the photograph was the defining moment of the discovery of the double helix because Watson gives a clear indication of this turning point in the race to find the structure of DNA, “The instant I saw the picture my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race. The pattern was unbelievably simpler than those obtained previously.” (p. 168-169). The significance of the B form photograph demonstrates that the discovery of the double helix was, in fact, a race. This race is an example of the nature of science that led to the discovery of the double helix. Watson points out that if he decided to go back to studying biology, Pauling would have the upper hand in the race (p. 144). Watson and Cricks discovery of the structure of DNA is indebted to Franklins B form photograph and this is why there is controversy surrounding it. In the scientific community, scientists seemingly disagreed with how Watson took a peek at the B form photograph without Franklins consent. What is more important is that the photograph itself was not properly acknowledged. All of Franklins hard work was put into that photograph, subsequently, neither she nor the photograph were properly credited for the discovery of the structure of DNA. In the epilogue of The Double Helix, Watson, in spite of everything, does not mention how the B form photograph led to the discovery of the structure of DNA because he asserts that he finally realized her generosity and sincerity (p. 226), but does not say how the photograph was crucial in their discovery of the double helix. The Disposition of science in th
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