Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History Narrative  
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Astbury's X-Rays
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Pauling had played around in a desultory way with nucleic acid structures as early as 1933 without much in the way of results. After solving the alpha helix, in the summer of 1951 he turned briefly to DNA again, when he learned that a fellow named Maurice Wilkins at King's College in London had some good DNA x-ray photos. But when Pauling asked Wilkins (and then Wilkins' superior) if he might see the DNA work, he was rebuffed - Wilkins wanted to publish the results himself. That left Pauling with only William Astbury's blurry x-ray patterns from the 1930s and one new photograph published in 1947. From this inadequate data, Pauling could get some rough ideas of dimensions and the size of repeating units, but they were too muddy to get much more.

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Audio Clip  Audio: Denying Pauling's Request. 1997. (0:52) Transcript and More Information

Video Clip  Video: Initial Investigations by Maurice Wilkins. 1973. (2:12) Transcript and More Information

See Also: Letter from J. T. Randall to Linus Pauling. August 28, 1951. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to J. T. Randall. September 25, 1951. 

Click images to enlarge 

Portrait of William T. Astbury. 1950s.

Plate 1
"X-Ray Studies of Nucleic Acids." 1947.

"I hope you'll write to Prof. J. T. Randall, Kings College, Strand, London. His coworker, Dr. M. Wilkins, told me he had some good fibre pictures of nucleic acid."

Gerald Oster
August 9, 1951
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