Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History All Documents and Media  
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Key Participants

William T. Astbury
Oswald T. Avery
Sir William Lawrence Bragg
Erwin Chargaff
Martha Chase
Robert B. Corey
Francis H. C. Crick
Max Delbrück
Jerry Donohue
Rosalind Franklin
R. D. B. (Bruce) Fraser
Alfred D. Hershey
Linus Pauling
Peter J. Pauling
Max F. Perutz
J. T. (John Turton) Randall
Verner Schomaker
Alexander R. Todd
James D. Watson
Maurice H. F. Wilkins

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Portrait of Erwin Chargaff.
Portrait of Erwin Chargaff. 1930.
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Erwin Chargaff


Erwin Chargaff Papers, 1929-1992
Location: American Philosophical Society Library, Manuscripts Department
Address: 105 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3386
Size: 113 boxes, 56 linear feet
Finding Aid:;query=Erwin%20Chargaff;brand=default
Phone: 215-440-3400  
Email:  Web:


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"Crick and Watson are very different. Watson is now a very able, effective administrator. In that respect he represents the American entrepreneurial type very well. Crick is very different: brighter than Watson, but he talks a lot, and so he talks a lot of nonsense."

Erwin Chargaff. American Philosophical Society oral history interview. 1972.

"So far as I could make out, they wanted, unencumbered by any knowledge of the chemistry involved, to fit DNA into a helix. The main reason seemed to be Pauling's alpha-helix model of a protein....I told them all I knew. If they had heard before about the pairing rules, they concealed it. But as they did not seem to know much about anything, I was not unduly surprised. I mentioned our early attempts to explain the complementarity relationships by the assumption that, in the nucleic acid chain, adenylic was always next to thymidylic acid and cytidylic next to guanylic acid....I believe that the double-stranded model of DNA came about as a consequence of our conversation; but such things are only susceptible of a later judgment...."

Erwin Chargaff. Heraclitean Fire. 1978.

"This observation of complementarity, later called Chargaff's ratios, was essential to the solution of DNA's structure. In hindsight, the complementary pairing of the nucleotides powerfully suggested that a DNA molecule could break into two parts. Only complementary bases could form bonds and line up in place in a new DNA strand."

Erwin Chargaff. Interview with Erwin Chargaff, OMNI, 7, no. 9 (June 1985): 100. June 1985.

Omni: Surely great men, even today, don't watch much TV or hang on the telephone? "There are no such men today. We have created a mechanism that makes it practically impossible for a real genius to appear. In my own field the biochemist Fritz Lipmann or the much maligned Linus Pauling were very talented people. But generally, geniuses everywhere seem to have died out by 1914. Today, most are mediocrities blown up by the winds of the time."

Erwin Chargaff. Interview with Erwin Chargaff, OMNI, 7, no. 9 (June 1985): 128. June 1985.

"Pairing I used later, translating my word into what had become a slogan. I did not say they were in a double structure, no. That is Crick and Watson. The helix is a gimcrack. The fact that it is double is important because it is an automatic way of reproduction. I never claimed it was my idea, and I don't wish to."

Erwin Chargaff. Interview with Erwin Chargaff, OMNI, 7, no. 9 (June 1985): 132. June 1985.

"In my opinion present-day science, especially biological science, is a direct symptom of the decline of the west--all this shameless talk about creating and multiplying will be put down as the barbarism of the 20th century."

Erwin Chargaff. Erwin Chargaff oral history interview, American Philosophical Society  97, Spri.

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