Solving the DNA Structure

I have just watched 3 video clips entitled ‘solving the DNA Structure’ which are made up of extracts of the 1974 Horizon programme ‘Race for the Double Helix’ and clips from Life Story (1987) which dramatises the story of the discovery of the double helix.

The metaphor of a race towards solving the problem of the dna structure which is used throughout these clips reflects the metaphor used by Derbyshire’s article ‘War veteran fights ex-hippie over book of life’ which discusses the process of genome mapping.  I would say that this metaphor of a race is a useful one.  The nature of science means that the same, or similar scientific discoveries are made around the same time by different scientists. This race metaphor is repeated throughout scientific reporting;

The Race for Habitable Worlds and Life in the Universe

The race for the first heart transplant.

Race quickens for the first human clone – Elsevier

The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb

I guess the importance of this for the scientists depends on the personalities of the scientists involved, and what drives them.  The selfless pursuit of science or the financial and reputational rewards that go with being the first.

In their article published in Nature (1953) Watson and Crick manage to convay an impressive amount of information in just over a single page.  They introduce the piece, they explain why they dispute existing theories, they propose their theory is some detail alongside their reasoning’s, they propose further work to support their finding and make reference to the importance of their findings.  They also identify and thank those who have supported them.   In contrast the section from Watsons (1968) book The Double Helix, includes a personal narrative of the thought process identifying how he came to the conclusion that DNA was a template to RNA and in turn protein structure and why he felt it was so important to determine the DNA structure.


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