In early April, a few days after Crick and Watson submitted their paper for publication,
Pauling arrived in Cambridge. After spending the night with Peter, he walked into
Crick's office and for the first time saw the model they had wired together out of
die-cut metal plates. Crick chattered nervously about the features of the double helix
while Pauling scrutinized it. He then examined Franklin's photo of the extended form
of the molecule. Watson and Crick waited. Then, "gracefully," Watson remembered, "he
gave the opinion that we had the answer."
It was a joyful moment for the two young men and a deflating one for Pauling. He was
amazed that this unlikely team, an adolescent postdoc and an elderly graduate student,
had come up with so elegant a solution to so important a structure. If they were right,
his own model was a monstrous mistake, built inside out with the wrong number of chains.
But he recognized now that the Cavendish team was almost certainly right. There was
only one thing left for him to do: Show the world how to handle defeat with style.
Pauling left Crick's office and met Bragg for lunch, during which Sir Lawrence vainly
tried to restrain his ebullience. After so many years of coming in second, his team
had finally beaten Pauling! Later, Pauling joined the Cricks at a pleasant dinner
at their house at Portugal Place. Through it all he remained charming and funny and
remarkably accepting of the new DNA structure, a true gentleman, both wise enough
to recognize defeat and great enough to accept it with good humor. A day or two later
both Bragg and Pauling went to the Solvay meeting - an occasional select gathering
of the world's top researchers funded by a Belgian industrialist - where Bragg provided
the first public announcement of the double helix. Pauling was generous in his support.
"Although it is only two months since Professor Corey and I published our proposed
structure for nucleic acid, I think that we must admit that it is probably wrong,"
he told the group. "Although some refinement might be made, I feel that it is very
likely that the Watson-Crick structure is essentially correct."