The discovery of DNA

Fifty-nine years ago this week, James Watson and Frances Crick published their first description of the structure of DNA. You can read the full, historic paper online. Note that the "unpublished experimental results and ideas" of Dr. R. E. Franklin get a shout-out at the end. (Via Pourmecoffee)


  1. Yesterday Alan Turing, today Rosalind Franklin.  Is this “Great scientists who got dicked over by society week?”

  2. It’s misleading to refer to Watson and Crick’s work as the discovery of DNA. The existence of DNA was shown decades earlier, and the knowledge that it was the carrier of genetic information was established by experiments that predate Watson and Crick’s working out of the structure by at least a few years. Which is not to minimize their contribution at all.

    1. Yep. DNA was discovered almost a century earlier, in 1869, by Friedrich Miescher (not that he or anyone else knew its significance). I remember a few years back when Jim Watson’s genome was sequenced the NYT had a headline about the “Genome of DNA Discoverer Sequenced” and wondered if we could sequence the genomes of 19th century scientists, why didn’t we start with Mendel or Darwin and not a semi-obscure Swiss biochemist like Miescher?

  3. As someone whose name is Francis, I am annoyed that you spelled “Francis” incorrectly, Maggie!

  4. The best part of the discovery of DNA is that it proves that God exists.  
    Even if you discount the fact that DNA is structured information, (Craig Venter says that DNA is basically “computer code”), the DNA transcription process requires 3 biochemical machines, mitochondria, RNA polymerase and ribosomes,to function.  All of these are created FROM DNA, and, without all of these machines working together, DNA transcription cannot work.   DNA replication requires mitochondria, helicase and several other enzymes that make up the replisome.  All of these are created FROM DNA and without these machines DNA replication cannot function.

    Abiogenesis?  You can’t get there from here…

    1. You could have argued that it suggests designers’ involvement at some stage, but to say that it *proves* anything like God is quite a stretch.  The way we see DNA working now is not necessarily how it originated.

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