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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA 



  • James D. Watson 


  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074321630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743216302
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.04 ounces


Book Description 

By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science’s greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions, and bitter rivalries. With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his and Crick’s desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences, the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work. 

Book Info

(Touchstone Books) A case history of the events leading up to the discovery of the structure of DNA, the double helix. Accounts of the Nobel Prize-winning scientists who were instrumental in the discovery, relating the race between Linus Pauling, and the author to find the missing pieces of the puzzle and claim the discovery. Softcover. DLC: Deoxyribonucleic acid.  

About the Author(s)

James D. Watson, together with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and physiology in 1962. He is president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. 


2 Helix as 1, November 22, 2005

The Double Helix was a one of the books on my high school biology teacher’s reading list for the class. The name itself, The Double Helix, had shied me away from reading it; it sounds like some boring old book that will describe the structure of DNA in some very big and boring words. However, after finally reading the book, I completely changed my thoughts on this book. I found the novel to be an easy and exciting to read in an almost fictious hero-like story.

Watson’s story is not just a mere account of the events that occurred, but it also contains many of his personal thoughts and views of the events. Watson’s purpose for writing The Double Helix was to explain that scientific research was a combination of "the contradictory pulls of ambition and the sense of fair play." Watson involves the reader in the "race" of the DNA structure with Linus Pauling and in the underhanded use of Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray data. I, like many others, was sucked into the thrill of Watson’s first-hand account of this dishonest race. During many points in the course of the novel, I was anxiously waiting to turn the page to see what Watson or Crick might do next. As Sir Lawrence Bragg puts it in the foreword, "I do not know any other instance where one is able to share so intimately in the researcher’s struggle and doubts and final triumph."

The Double Helix was not only a good read, but also it has reinvigorated my spirit in the field of research, especially the active field of genetics. My first year of college courses in chemistry and biology had began to turn me away from research in particular areas, for the courses just did not seem to interest me anymore. However, this book has provided me with a new avenue into the exciting world and life of scientific research; I am again looking forward to going into the genetic research field.

I observed a very interesting point in the book, which is that all the data and diagrams that were discussed throughout the novel are also taught in our chemistry classes; it is in this fact that I find science’s beauty, that only 50 years ago this data was used to solve the structure of a totally unknown molecule/idea and is now taught in elementary chemistry classes.

The Double Helix is an exceptional novel that I recommend to all.