Narrator: A young biologist who had long had an ambition to discover the nature of the gene,
James Watson, was rather more sure about DNA.
James Watson: I think I thought it probably was the genetic material. I had been working in Copenhagen
on the fate of the DNA during bacterial virus reproduction, and probably even from
the time of graduate school it seemed like a logical molecule to think about. The
Avery experiment said that genetic specificity could be carried by the DNA. You could
interpret it in a variety of ways, but given your choice, I think you picked on DNA.
Narrator: Although Watson had gone to Copenhagen to learn nucleic acid chemistry, the subject
bored him. DNA itself didn't loom large again until he heard a talk by Maurice Wilkins
in Naples, who showed some x-ray photographs obtained from crystalline DNA.
James Watson: This was very exciting to me because when I had been in graduate school, I had read
about the original 1938 work of Astbury on x-ray photographs, and this was obviously
a big step forward, so it seemed like a pretty good thing to do was to do the x-ray
work because it might actually tell you what the molecule was like. I mean, DNA was
a word. It never meant anything as a molecule to me, and I knew it was composed of
nucleotides. But again, except for an exam, I never would have learned what the formula