Dna Double Helix

In the 1950s, a young American biologist, James Watson, teamed up with British graduate student Francis Crick at Cambridge University in England to try to determine the structure of DNA. By 1953, they had put together a model for the structure of DNA as shown in Figure 10-4. They proposed that DNA is made of two chains that wrap around each other in the shape of a double helix, a shape similar to a winding spiral staircase. Their final model was correct and was remarkable because it explained how DNA could replicate.

Watson and Crick relied on other scientists' work to develop their DNA model. Part of that work was X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA crystals, such as the one shown in Figure 10-5. The photographs and crystals were produced by researchers Rosalind Franklin, shown in Figure 10-5, and Maurice Wilkins, at King's College in London.

In 1962, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on DNA. Rosalind Franklin died in 1958 and so could not be named in the award. However, an important genetics institute in Cambridge now bears her name, and her contribution is recognized around the world.

figure 10-4

James Watson (left) and Francis Crick stand beside their tin-and-wire model of DNA.

figure 10-4

James Watson (left) and Francis Crick stand beside their tin-and-wire model of DNA.

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