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'That Wild-Haired Man And That Dapper Fellow'- Homing In On The Secret Of Life


Robert Deyes continues his examinition of SITC over at Uncommon Descent.

"Watson, with his wild hair and perfect willingness to throw off work for a Hedy Lamarr film, and Crick, a dapper and no longer especially young fellow who couldn't seem to close the deal on his dissertation"(p.59). These are the uninspiring words that Stephen Meyer uses to describe the two men who would ultimately unravel the structure of DNA and thus ring in the molecular biology revolution.

With the chemical composition of DNA sufficiently well established, the world of science appeared poised for a major shake-up in its understanding of heredity. Still, the road of discovery up until that time had been anything but a 'walk in the park'. While important details concerning the components of DNA had been ironed out as early as 1909, several erroneous turns at the beginning of the twentieth century had thrown biologists 'off piste' into thinking that protein and not DNA lay at the heart of heredity.

In the 1940s the pioneering work of Erwin Chargaff brought heredity firmly back into its rightful place. Having shown unequivocally that DNA was made up of non-equal proportions of its constituent bases, Chargaff recognized that DNA might possess a language-style code that could act as the medium for inheritance. The intellectual journey that led James Watson to Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory in 1951 eventually finished of course with a stunning confirmation of Chargaff's suspicions.

Read the rest here.

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