In their 1953 “Molecular Structure Of Nucleic Acids” Watson and Crick open with the decidedly unscientific “We wish to suggest…” and in only a short page or so, take us through their thoughts on what shape DNA takes in the natural world. With a tone, that is though decidedly academic, conversational in the way it winds from chemistry to other laboratories take on what structure DNA might take. The paper is notable for what is not present as well. After a careful description or at least inventory of the facts supporting their structure, they proceed to open up a new avenue of discusion; suggesting how the model might relate to the observed biology. In one of the final paragraphs they lead with “It has not escaped our notice…”. They hint that the structure they have described, suggests that there is a very simple solution to another vexing problem remained unsolved in 1953. How does DNA copy itself, and how does it do so quickly?
Here Watson and Crick speculate that they have solved an important piece of this puzzle, and interestingly do so without directly stating what their speculation is! As is to pass off the impoliteness they assure us that these speculations and more data will follow.
They write as if they are having a conversation with you, an old colleague. When in fact they seem to have carefully crafted their thoughts so the reader can follow the unfolding story as if discovering the structure themselves.
For your first assignment I want you to compose a paragraph or two, describing your scientific response to the idea that DNA is an anti-parallel double helix. Write for a broader audience, not just scientists. Explain why this discovery is important, not from today’s perspective, but how you imagine a scientist in 1953 might respond.