Read Cultivation Event Panelist Jonathan Weiner's Laboratory Confidential exploring James D. Watson's The Double Helix

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Laboratory confidential is a fascinating read about James D. Watson’s memoir The Double Helix, centering on his search for the structure of DNA. Written by 2012 EST/Sloan Cultivation Event panelist, Jonathan Weiner, the piece touches on the impact Watson's pursuit had on fellow scientists Francis Crick & Rosalind Franklin, all main characters in EST/Sloan Project's 2010 hit Photograph 51.

W hen The Double Helix appeared in the winter of 1968, I reviewed it for The Laureate, the literary magazine at Classical High School, in Providence, Rhode Island. I was a freshman.

It was my first effort as a science writer, and now, after four decades, I feel lucky to have started there. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson, is one of the best books ever written about science, and it happens to have been written by one of the great scientists of the 20th century. And I happened to read it at the very best age—when I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be.

The Double Helix is the story of a race to solve one of the central problems in science, the secret of the gene, which looked to many scientists at mid-20th century like the very heart of life itself. Biologists already knew that genes are the material through which traits are passed from generation to generation—the keys to identity, physiology, evolution. But no one knew the structure of the gene; and until scientists knew that, they couldn’t figure out how genes work. Watson went after the problem in the fall of 1951, at the age of 23, when he was still a graduate student, and he scrabbled his way to the solution before he was 25.

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