silverflight8 (silverflight8) wrote in bookish,

  • Mood:

The Double Helix: James Watson

This is a first-person account from one of the founders of the structure of DNA about the race to find what might as well be called the "golden molecule"--the secret to life. In terms of writing, it wasn't bad; it did make me laugh in several places. As a biology student, it was certainly very interesting to see how Watson and Crick saw their method--while their colleagues were tied up trying to interpret X-ray crystallography, they were building models. It was also quite amusing to see Watson's characterization of Linus Pauling (one of the premier chemists of that time, and still very highly regarded today), as a boy who is eager to show off his new toy (the alpha-helix of proteins, an important discovery). All in all, the look inside what was going on at the time was very interesting. However, I felt sort of ruffled because every time Watson mentioned females, it was usually not in any--well, nice way. He recommended Madam Pop's apartment on the basis of "the nice au pair girls". His sister, apparently, was a dolt; but it was the description of Rosalind Franklin that ticked me off. Franklin--as a woman in science in the 1950s--was an excellent (one of the best, in fact) X-ray crystallographers, but Watson passed over her actual skills in favor of describing her grumpiness and her looks. In light of the fact that it was Franklin's work that helped Watson and Crick, it ruffled me. He does includes an apology on the last page. I felt the pace was quite slow (after all, it wasn't as though Watson and Crick had a single brainwave and found the structure) and at times I felt like shouting "It's not a three-stranded structure, don't waste your time!", because we know now what the structure is. Watson doesn't describe exactly how X-ray crystallography works, nor any of the other techniques used, so it is more-or-less readable by anyone. Since it is so unhesitatingly honest, though, I think the rating would be 7/10.
Tags: xxx author last name: r-z

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.