Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History Narrative  
Home | Search | All Documents and Media | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day
1  >

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.

Next Page

Audio Clip  Audio: A Short Summary of Pauling's Involvement with DNA. 1977. (1:20) Transcript and More Information

Get the Flash Player to see this audio player.

Video Clip  Video: Watson's Early Attitude Toward DNA. 1973. (1:48) Transcript and More Information

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Click images to enlarge 

Segment of the original Watson and Crick DNA model. 1953.

Page 1
"Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid." April 25, 1953.

"It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."

Home | Search | All Documents and Media | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day