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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
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...
Published on May 8 2002 by shel99

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3.0 out of 5 stars Scientists Are People Too
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...
Published on Dec 10 2001 by Pearl Gallagher


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4.0 out of 5 stars The thrill of discovery, Aug. 17 2002
By 
Alex De Visscher (Calgary, AB, Canada) - See all my reviews
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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
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
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
By 
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. This book sheds that concept.
Watson and Crick needed to do research, work hard, and learn from their mistakes in order to accomplish their objective. They even needed help from their friends. They beat out a great scientist in Linus and won the "DNA Race." Their discovery has changed the world, and this book depicts them in a humble role-two guys doing their job.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A complementary view point..., Nov. 17 2001
By 
Guy B Faguet, M.D. (Augusta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
Most readers of "The Double Helix" would be further enlightened by Anne Sayre's "Rosalind Franklin and DNA".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for everyone, but only one voice, Aug. 4 1998
By 
Adam Piontek "made to order" (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This book is exceptional for anyone wishing to know the tale of the "discovery" of DNA. It's great for knowing how exciting science can be (and should be) for the people involved. It's great in that it doesn't require too much, if any, technical knowledge to understand. My *only* complaint is inevitible -- it's one participant's view. I read this years ago, so I don't remember how much, if at all, Dr. Watson dealt with this, but how sad that the female scientist who the got much of their information from was not honored and is pretty much forgotten by most people, simply because she died before they were up for the Nobel Prize (the Nobel foundation doesn't award posthumously). And how ironic that she died from cancer brought on (most likely) by the machinerey she used to do her science.
Read this book, it's great. Just keep some solemnity for those whose voices aren't quite heard.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Science Nerd, May 11 2004
By 
This review is from: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (Paperback)
Science and I have never been on a level playing field. We go together like jalapenos and cheesecake. When the opportunity arose to do extra credit for my biology class, I was ecstatic. That is until I found out exactly what the assignment was. I had to read a book, a scientific one of course, from a list compiled by my instructor, write a review, and post it on here on Amazon. If I wasn't so desperate for the extra points I would have torn that book list into a million pieces, but describing my need for an A as desperate would be an understatement. Naturally, I chose the book with the least amount of pages, James Watson's Double Helix. The title alone made me drowsy. I was in for a big surprise, though. I actually enjoyed the book and even learned a little bit in the process. The story was extremely well told and I found myself eagerly awaiting the answer to Mr. Watson's burning question, "What does DNA look like?"
James Watson was en exceptionally intelligent man, as was clearly demonstrated in his book by his eloquent writing style, extensive vocabulary, and impressive syntax. He was, however, not an intimidating scientist, which allowed me to relate to his story with ease. Watson was full of ideas, a quick study, and very receptive to the work of his superiors, but at the time of his brilliant discovery, he was merely a student, fighting to get funded for his research. He had studied biology, chemistry, and physics, but was not particularly fond of any of them. Unfortunately, Mr. Watson was at a disadvantage because all three disciplines were the building blocks for understanding the composition and structure of DNA.
Although James Watson was funded to research viruses while away in England, his immediate fascination with DNA quickly derailed his educational focus, and with several incorrect theories about DNA already spread, he was unquestionably discouraged from his desired area of study. The entire book boasted his bliss and reverence, having met and worked with some of the worlds most famous and respected scientists. Watson was clever enough to draw knowledge from each of them which assisted him throughout the stages of the project.
The best part about reading the book was that while I was devouring my literature, my Biology professor was covering DNA and genetics in class. I felt like the smartest kid in the world because I truly understood all the material he was discussing, thanks to Mr. Watson. The novel included supportive illustrations which assisted me in following some of the more difficult language, such as nitrogenous bases, and phosphate groups. I was astounded to know that I had a firm grasp of a minute portion of the scientific world.
I thought the book was great primarily because I could understand it. While it may sound facetious, it's absolutely true. Unless you love science, the terminology involved sounds completely foreign. I was utterly terrified just thinking about how I was going to attempt to comprehend my newfound author. My fright was quickly put to ease as I turned each page. Initially I was dreading reading a few pages per night, and soon found myself reading five chapters a night and finished the book, in its entirety, within just a few days. I would undeniably recommend this book to anyone like me who feels inferior when it comes to the sciences. It is a superb account of a scientific breakthrough intertwined with a story of friendship, inspiration, competition, and triumph.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Important Discover...but not the most invigorating book, May 14 2004
This review is from: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a thriller, March 9 2004
By 
Parag Sahasrabudhe (East Lyme, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (Paperback)
-- Interesting book about how the structure of DNA was discovered. Describes the whole process very well without getting too deep in the science. The narrative does justice to a dramatic sequence of events.
-- Maybe Watson is being modest, but, it seems like he didn't do much in discovering the structure. He was just there discussing things with Crick and others.
-- Linus Pauling was subjected to harrasment by Sen. McCarthy. He was denied a passport to travel internationally to attend a meeting.</li></ul>
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enrapturing and Inspiring.., Feb. 11 2004
By 
Anand Rangarajan "anandr" (Sunnyvale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (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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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson Ph.D. (Paperback - June 12 2001)
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