Why Watson and Crick? Destiny or Chance?

When people talk DNA we think Watson and Crick. But the fact is it really wouldn’t have been them at all. Here is why.

During the time that people were trying to find out what the genetic material was Watson was a Physicist working behind the lines for the war and Crick an ornithologist. What brought them together and got them interested in this hunt for the genetic material was their common interest in X-RAY Crystallography.  X-RAY Crystallography gives an idea of the structure of the material you are studying by giving a picture of the electron densities of the material. Pauling had just used this wonderful technique to unravel the alpha helix structure of proteins. Using techniques of biochemistry scientists had determined that DNA was basically composed of 4 bases which are Adenine, Guanine, Thymine and Cytosine. Using this information Watson and Crick could not make much progress, so Watson hired a mathematician to arrive at a conclusion. After much study the mathematician concluded and presented the result that Adenine and Thymine and Cytosine and Guanine occurred at a 1to1 ration. But still Watson and crick could not make the connection. In 1951 Watson after attending a lecture on Rosalind Franklin’s work up to date and could have discovered the structure of DNA. But he did not. Why? Well for the simple reason that Watson did not take notes!!! So Watson after returning from the lecture along with Crick designed a model for DNA structure which was ultimately termed as a failure.

It is said that Franklin while working alone in her lab had obtained an X-Ray Crystallographic image which suggested that DNA was actually made of 2 strands. And while she was working on getting more evidence to prove this, Watson and Crick accidently stumbled upon this image which made them to correlate Chargaff’s pairing rule and the result submitted by their mathematician which led them to conclude that DNA was actually a helically coiled molecule made of 2 strands running anti-parallel to each other.

Since their findings were consistent to that of Chargaff’s and explained how the molecule maintained its structure during cell division it was immediately accepted by the scientific world. This discovery has been called the most important discovery in the field of biology for the last 100 years. By the time the Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery in 1962 Franklin had died. And the prize was shared among Watson, Crick and Wilkins. So the question remains if Franklin had been alive who would have got the prize?

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