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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
4.0 out of 5 stars The thrill of discovery Aug. 17 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the story of the search for the structure of DNA, told by the one who (with Francis Crick) discovered it. But it's far more than that. It is also the story of a young man who tries to find his way in the world of science. The book is very well written, in a charming informal style. However, this is a highly personal account, and should not be considered as the objective truth about the subject. Especially the fans of Rosalind Franklin will testify this. Nevertheless, I recommend this book if you want to savour the thrill of scientific discovery.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating May 8 2002
By shel99
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This firsthand account of the discovery of DNA dispels a lot of the notions that ousiders have about how science really works. Watson's descriptions of the competition, politics, dead ends, personality clashes, mistakes, and eventually inspiration reveal that discovery is not as clear-cut a process as it sometimes might seem.
Watson is honest in his introduction that his account is just that, the story told through his own point of view, complete with possible faulty memories and personal prejudices. I was intrigued by the portrayals of the personalities of so many famous figures that I've been learning about for years in my biology and genetics classes - Francis Crick, of course, along with Maurice Wilikins, Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, and many more. I was touched by Watson's admission at the end of the book that his unfavorable impressions of Rosalind Franklin stemmed from the fact that she was a woman trying to make a name for herself in the male-dominated world of scientific research in the 1950s.
There is quite a bit of biological jargon in this book, and though it could probably be read by someone without any knowledge of genetics, it will be appreciated more by readers with some background. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in genetics and science.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating May 8 2002
By shel99
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This firsthand account of the discovery of DNA dispels a lot of the notions that ousiders have about how science really works. Watson's descriptions of the competition, politics, dead ends, personality clashes, mistakes, and eventually inspiration reveal that discovery is not as clear-cut a process as it sometimes might seem.
Watson is honest in his introduction that his account is just that, the story told through his own point of view, complete with possible faulty memories and personal prejudices. I was intrigued by the portrayals of the personalities of so many famous figures that I've been learning about for years in my biology and genetics classes - Francis Crick, of course, along with Maurice Wilikins, Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, and many more. I was touched by Watson's admission at the end of the book that his unfavorable impressions of Rosalind Franklin stemmed from the fact that she was a woman trying to make a name for herself in the male-dominated world of scientific research in the 1950s.
There is quite a bit of biological jargon in this book, and though it could probably be read by someone without any knowledge of genetics, it will be appreciated more by readers with some background. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in genetics and science.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Scientists Are People Too Dec 10 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although The Double Helix by James D. Watson is not the most riveting-can't-put-it-down book, it does offer a fascinating first-hand account of the events leading up to one of the most impacting scientific discoveries ever. Its manifestation of the unique existence of a scientist exposes what type of competitions, manipulation, and discovery exist in the science arena.
The introduction of other key figures who played prominent and influential roles in the discovery of the DNA structure is at the very least, enlightening. The network of knowledge necessary to ensure there are no foibles in a key discovery is something that the general public may have never taken into account. Also, it evinces the professional barriers that exist between the genders. The back story of Rosalind "Rosie" Franklin is fascinating as it examines the "glass ceiling" and what type of personality a woman needs to adopt in order to survive in a male dominated field. The end of the end of the book-where Watson realizes her seemingly callous attitude emanates from her essential need to incorporate survival methods is refreshing. The science terms are difficult to follow if one does not have previous scientific background, but there is enough universality imbedded into the story to keep a reader's attention.
Another aspect that proves to be surprising is the fact that scientists are not without their weak fields-just because they excel in chemistry does not mean they are equally capable in biology. Reading of how Watson and Crick were unsuccessful on several occasions somehow made them human-like they were mortals rather than some higher power intellectuals. Somehow, there seems to be an idea or stigma attached to scientists that suggest they are always brilliant and do not make mistakes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A complementary view point... Nov. 17 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Most readers of "The Double Helix" would be further enlightened by Anne Sayre's "Rosalind Franklin and DNA".
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Discover...but not the most invigorating book
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. Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by Matthew Bratkowski
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Enrapturing and Inspiring..
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). Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2004 by Anand Rangarajan
3.0 out of 5 stars Enrapturing and Inspiring..
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). Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2004 by Anand Rangarajan
3.0 out of 5 stars "Honest Jim's" Version of a Major Scientific Event (SEE ADDENDUM...
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In this book (first published in 1968), "Honest Jim" (as a scientist friend called him) or Dr. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004 by Stephen Pletko
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"
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