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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA Paperback – Jun 12 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (June 12 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074321630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743216302
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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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I HAVE never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By Normand Hamel on Dec 30 2014
Format: Paperback
Because of all the hype surrounding this book I hesitated a long while before finally deciding to read it. Well, I can now say that I was pleasantly surprised. It is a remarkable book that must be appreciated on its own merits, despite the grave prejudices it may have caused to some individuals. Many people were deeply offended when they read how they, or others, had been portrayed by Watson. In fact very few were willing to endorse his personal views. Including his closest collaborators. It has been said that he displayed immaturity and bad taste.

Watson did not spare anyone, including himself, but he concentrated his attacks on one particular individual and that person happened to be the one who was holding the key that would help him and his partner Francis Crick to solve one of the the greatest mystery of Biology. Her name was Rosalind Franklin and unfortunately she was no longer around to defend herself. Normally she should have been one of the heroes of this story, but instead Watson portrayed her as the vilain. Like numerous other people I would have liked to hear her own version of the story. Many of the negative reviews actually come from readers who were incensed by Watson's treatment of Franklin. And the negative reactions had even started before the book was published. This offered Watson an opportunity to rectify his position, and indeed that's what he did. But instead of rewriting portions of the book where he made Franklin look like a second rate scientist and a despicable human being, he elected to make amend in an epilogue section that was added before going to press. So we can assume that many people who have read this book became furious with what the author was saying and probably gave up way before reaching that epilogue.
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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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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.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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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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