Navigation Links
New twists in double helix discovery story are uncovered
Date:9/29/2010

Cold Spring Harbor, NY -- The story of the double helix's discovery has a few new twists. A new primary source -- a never-before-read stack of letters to and from Francis Crick, and other historical materials dating from the years 1950-76 -- has been uncovered by two professors at the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL).

The letters both confirm and extend current knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the epoch-making discovery of DNA's elegant double-helical structure, for which Crick, James D. Watson (now CSHL's chancellor emeritus) and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Unlike the structure itself, which amazed even its discoverers in its simplicity, the story of the discovery has revealed a complex tangle of people, ambitions and institutional politics behind the process of scientific investigation.

"It's primarily the insights these new letters provide about the personalities of the discoverers that people will find most fascinating," says Alex Gann, Ph.D., who along with Jan Witkowski, Ph.D., uncovered the new Crick materials and co-authored a paper on them that appears in the journal Nature Sept. 30.

Following the publication of landmark works including Watson's confessional The Double Helix in 1968 and Horace Freeland Judson's The Eighth Day of Creation 11 years later, most historians have been content to believe that the archives had been fully explored and would not reveal much more about the double helix story. But 34 of the newfound letters are between Crick and Wilkins and draw attention to what Gann and Witkowski have described as Wilkins' "tortured soul" during the critical period 1951-53, when Watson and Crick were alternately put on, taken off and then restored to an effort to discover DNA's structure.

"We are really between forces which may grind all of us into little pieces," Wilkins wrote to Crick in one letter. As Witkowski explains, "Maurice Wilkins on the one hand wanted to be open he believed science should be open and was all in favor of cooperation, the exchange of ideas and data; but on the other hand, he was also mindful of his own career: he knew he had to get results and publish papers." As the upstarts Watson and Crick, then unknowns, jockeyed for permission at Cambridge to explore the DNA structure problem, Wilkins, at King's College, was already well engaged in experimentation that would prove vital in determination of the solution. Wilkins' boss at King's, John Randall, hired Rosalind Franklin and had, unknown to Wilkins, assured her that she was in "sole charge" of the DNA work at King's. This led to conflicts between Franklin and Wilkins, who assumed he and Franklin would be partners.

This was but the beginning of a series of now historic misunderstandings. Between the lines of the newly discovered Crick letters with Wilkins, one grasps, on Wilkins' end, the anguish, and on Crick's, what at times comes across as the self-assurance and jocularity of the player possessing superior position.

This is but a fraction of the newly found letters, which were uncovered unexpectedly in the midst of an archival collection of materials donated to Cold Spring Harbor by Sydney Brenner, the distinguished molecular biologist and Nobel laureate, who worked alongside Crick following discovery of the double helix. The two shared an office at Cambridge from 1956 to 1977. Coincidentally, the CSHL Press has just released a new biography of Brenner by Errol Friedberg.

Among the new letters there are some 30 between Crick and George Gamow, dating to 1953-64. Other of his correspondents included Leo Szilard, C.P. Snow, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, among many others. The most important of the new letters, cited in the Gann-Witkowski paper, are now in the process of being digitized at the CSHL Archives (http://library.cshl.edu) to facilitate public access. Mila Pollock, Executive Director of the CSHL Library and Archives, says it is her hope that digitization will proceed so that the Crick correspondence in its entirety will be accessible to all via the Internet. The greater part of the collection resides at the Wellcome Library (http://library.wellcome.ac.uk)


'/>"/>

Contact: Peter Tarr
tarr@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology technology :

1. Light twists rigid structures in unexpected nanotech finding
2. US Neuropathic Pain Market Value Doubles to $5 Billion by 2018
3. Premier Research Achieves Double-Digit Growth in Functional Sourcing for the Third Straight Year
4. Method sorts out double-walled carbon nanotube problem
5. YM BIOSCIENCES RECEIVES CLEARANCE TO INITIATE RANDOMIZED DOUBLE-BLIND CLINICAL TRIALS OF NIMOTUZUMAB IN LUNG CANCER AND BRAIN METASTASES FROM LUNG CANCER
6. Rising H9N2 Influenza Replikin Count Has Doubled That of H5N1
7. London-Based Double Helix Consulting Launches US Division for Strategic Pricing, Reimbursement and Market Access Solutions
8. SleepQuest Compliance Again Doubles Industry Average
9. Carbon nanotube avalanche process nearly doubles current
10. Nanoparticles double their chances of getting into sticky situations
11. Double Helix Appoints Ann Stuchiner Vice President of US Consulting Division
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:10/11/2017)... and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. ... Cancer Research, London (ICR) and University ... SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma ... MUK nine . The University of Leeds ... partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform the ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, has ... The bold new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal to ... period. , It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet cooking ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates announced ... at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... residential home security market and how smart safety and security products impact ... Parks Associates: Smart Home ... "The residential security market has ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... DIEGO , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech ... biological mechanism by which its ProCell stem cell ... critical limb ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment ... amount of limbs saved as compared to standard ... the molecule HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the ... Continue Reading ... ... Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... The report "Gesture Recognition and Touchless Sensing Market by Technology (Touch-based ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to be worth USD ... 2022. Continue Reading ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):