The 1953 publication of James Watson's and Francis Crick's paper on the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA marked a pivotal moment
in modern scientific history. Few individual discoveries so quickly ushered in so
many fundamental advances in so many fields, from genetics and evolutionary theory
to biochemistry and medical research. The work of Watson and Crick refashioned modern
biology and touched off an explosion of new insights into life at the molecular level.
Indeed, many scientists regard this particular discovery as the greatest intellectual
achievement of the twentieth century.
The paper also marked the finish of a legendary race. This site is unique in seeking
to document much of that race in the words of the participants themselves. It is our
hope that being able to browse the raw material of history, the contemporaneous letters,
notebooks and manuscripts of those involved in the race, will allow the viewers of
this site to see as directly as possible history in the making.
The cast of characters includes the winners, of course: Watson and Crick, two brash
fellows too young and too inexperienced at the time to be taken too seriously by too
many people; Sir William Lawrence Bragg, the head of the Cavendish Laboratory where Watson and Crick did their work, Nobel
laureate and very serious competitor to Linus Pauling, the wizard of Caltech, the world's leading structural chemist and odds-on favorite
to solve the structure of DNA; his son Peter Pauling, lover of fast cars and romance, office-mate of Watson and Crick and unofficial communications
link between the competing groups in California and England; Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, whose laboratories at King's College produced evidence critical to winning the prize;
and many more.