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Double Helix [Special Edition] [Hardcover]

James D. Watson Ph.D.
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 27 1998 Scribner Classics
The classic personal account of Watson and Crick’s groundbreaking discovery of the structure of DNA, now with an introduction by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind.

By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science’s greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions, and bitter rivalries.

With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his and Crick’s desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences, the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work.

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"Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders," writes James Watson in The Double Helix, his account of his codiscovery (along with Francis Crick) of the structure of DNA. Watson and Crick won Nobel Prizes for their work, and their names are memorized by biology students around the world. But as in all of history, the real story behind the deceptively simple outcome was messy, intense, and sometimes truly hilarious. To preserve the "real" story for the world, James Watson attempted to record his first impressions as soon after the events of 1951-1953 as possible, with all their unpleasant realities and "spirit of adventure" intact.

Watson holds nothing back when revealing the petty sniping and backbiting among his colleagues, while acknowledging that he himself was a willing participant in the melodrama. In particular, Watson reveals his mixed feelings about his famous colleague in discovery, Francis Crick, who many thought of as an arrogant man who talked too much, and whose brilliance was appreciated by few. This is the joy of The Double Helix--instead of a chronicle of stainless-steel heroes toiling away in their sparkling labs, Watson's chronicle gives readers an idea of what living science is like, warts and all. The Double Helix is a startling window into the scientific method, full of insight and wit, and packed with the kind of science anecdotes that are told and retold in the halls of universities and laboratories everywhere. It's the stuff of legends. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

First published in 1968, this classic story of the discovery of DNA has never been released as an audiobook.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
Ok. I'm giving this book a 4 because of the importance of the discover of the structure of DNA. In terms of actual reading material, however, I'd probably give it a 2 or 3. I do believe that James Watson is a great scientist, but he is not writer. His writing style is only adequete and far from interesting and he really doesn't do a great job of putting interest into the subject matter. Someone who does not have at least a little background in the general concepts or biology/organic chemistry/physics will probably not get much out of this book.
Now on to the science side of the book. Watson describes the various events that took place while he, Franscis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin worked on discovering the structure of DNA. Again, Watson does not really put much vigor into these events but does describe them realistically (science can't always do interesting). He focuses on his relationship with Crick, battles with Franklin, and competetion with Linus Pauling--the Nobel prize winning chemist who ironically get the structure of DNA wrong. Through his writing, Watson at times reveals his pompousness and his ignorance of certain scientific concepts, but overall shows his devout eagerness of discovery.
I would say that this is an important book to read if you are at all interested in science. However, it is probably too boring for just a fun read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enrapturing and Inspiring.. Feb. 11 2004
Format:Paperback
There have been so many books written about the discovery of the DNA, and after some browsing, I decided to pick this one (at least, seems to be most popular).
Watson describes in vivid detail the happenings that precipitated in the final moment. It is really a story of drama, espionage, deception and a little bit of exploratory science. Captivating narrative and inspiring in some ways. But, not the "high class" I was expecting.
Personal Notes:
The book gave glimpses of how much pressure "doing science" can be. I thought pure science (or at least the kind that gets people the Nobel) is generally done with a pristine pursuit of the truth with not much time pressures. But, in the world of annual conferences, research paper deadlines, high profile spending, and expectations of "ROI" in almost anything, it was only a matter of time before any serious science had to answer to corporate/defense spending and peer pressures. In light of such a situation, it is no surprise that there can be people who actually have a game-plan (and in some ways, a business plan) to get the Nobel prize. Venture Capitalists invest in people and ideas to make companies that will be bought by others or will go public. Defense spending (and increasingly corporate spending) invests in scientists to get big-tag prizes, and protectionist patents that will give them first dibs at cash-cow-products/projects. At least, that is the reality of today.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enrapturing and Inspiring.. Feb. 11 2004
Format:Paperback
There have been so many books written about the discovery of the DNA, and after some browsing, I decided to pick this one (at least, seems to be most popular).
Watson describes in vivid detail the happenings that precipitated in the final moment. It is really a story of drama, espionage, deception and a little bit of exploratory science. Captivating narrative and inspiring in some ways. But, not the "high class" I was expecting.
Personal Chatter:
The book gave glimpses of how much pressure "doing science" can be. I thought pure science (or at least the kind that gets people the Nobel) is generally done with a pristine pursuit of the truth with not much time pressures. But, in the world of annual conferences, research paper deadlines, high profile spending, and expectations of "ROI" in almost anything, it was only a matter of time before any serious science had to answer to corporate/defense spending and peer pressures. In light of such a situation, it is no surprise that there can be people who actually have a game-plan (and in some ways, a business plan) to get the Nobel prize. Venture Capitalists invest in people and ideas to make companies that will be bought by others or will go public. Defense spending (and increasingly corporate spending) invests in scientists to get big-tag prizes, and protectionist patents that will give them first dibs at cash-cow-products/projects. At least, that is the reality of today.
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By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
XXXXX

In this book (first published in 1968), "Honest Jim" (as a scientist friend called him) or Dr. James Watson (born: 1928) has explained his "version of how the structure of DNA was discovered" and "this account represents the way [he] saw things then, in [the fall of] 1951 - [spring of] 1953." (The discovery was announced in April 1953.) That is, he has "attempted to re-create [his] first impressions of the relevant events and personalities" that he encountered along the way to making the discovery. Thus, understand this is not a book of historical facts.

Also, because of the personal nature of this book Watson states that "many of the comments [that he makes] may seem one-sided and unfair, but this is often the case in the incomplete and hurried way in which human beings decide to like or dislike a new idea or [a new] acquaintance."

This book revolves around five main people: Dr. Francis Crick (born: 1916) & Watson (both of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge); Dr. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) & Dr. Maurice Wilkins (born: 1916) (both of King's College, a divison of the University of London); and Dr. Linus Pauling (1901-1994)(of the California Institute of Technology). However, along the way the reader meets many other people, both scientists and non-scientists.

As Watson explains, the above five people are in a "race" to discover DNA's structure. However, I got the impression that neither Franklin nor Wilkins knew they were in a race. By the end of the race, Watson was "one of the winners" who shared the Nobel Prize in 1962 with Crick and Wilkins.

This 29-chapter (with epilogue) book is a fast read (but only if you gloss over the science parts).
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Science Nerd
Science and I have never been on a level playing field. We go together like jalapenos and cheesecake. Read more
Published on May 11 2004 by Xiomara Medina
1.0 out of 5 stars Shame on you, "Doctor" Watson
Shame on Watson for "taking" data from Rosalind Franklin and not even acknowledging it. My wife and I watched the Nova program "Secret of Photo 51" and was... Read more
Published on March 26 2004 by P. To
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a thriller
-- Interesting book about how the structure of DNA was discovered. Describes the whole process very well without getting too deep in the science. Read more
Published on March 9 2004 by Parag Sahasrabudhe
1.0 out of 5 stars A Self-Serving book that misrepresents how science is done
Many of us who read further than the words written by a single author, gossipy, but holding back in this book very much for self-serving reasons can only find this book distressing... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars A book that misrepresents how science is done
Many of us who read further than the words written by a single author, gossipy, but holding back in this book very much for self-serving reasons can only find this book distressing... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Information From a Bias Perspective
For those who are interested in a future with genetics, reading The Double Helix, by James Watson, is highly recommended. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by "marvelous_moondance"
4.0 out of 5 stars Information From a Bias Perspective
For those who are interested in a future with genetics, reading The Double Helix, by James Watson, is highly recommended. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by Lauren Watka
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile book on important scientific discovery
This book by James Watson tells his story, in the years he worked on the structure of DNA. As another review noted, this is the story "warts and all," including his and... Read more
Published on June 12 2003 by Frank
3.0 out of 5 stars Scientific competition.
Prof. Watson tells us his story of the discovery of the DNA structure, a crucial scientific break-through. Read more
Published on May 2 2003 by Luc REYNAERT
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