Brown & Co.
Watson, J.D. (1980). The Double Helix (Norton Critical Edition). G. Stent (Ed.). NY: New York,
W.W. Norton & Company, 3rd edition. Read in particular:
Crick, F. The Double Helix: A Personal View, pp. 137-145;
Klug, A. Rosalind Franklin and the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, pp. 153-158.
Read as well the reviews of The Double Helix when it appeared, all reprinted in the
Norton Critical Edition, pp. 175-234.
Questions to answer in writing your essay:
In The Double Helix James Watson recounts the process by which he and Francis Crick came to discover the double helical structure of DNA. Apart from the purely scientific, theoretical aspects of their work, what institutional, political, financial, personal, and other
interests were at work? Here you should consider in particular financial matters, including Watson’s fellowships, especially the problems he had with his Fellowship Board in Washington, D.C. You should also consider political problems (Pauling), additional personal interactions (Peter Pauling, tennis, hiking, pub crawling), and any other influences you think were at work that help to delineate the dynamics of creative work in science that are influential but not directly related to the data, experiments, and logic of
scientific discovery itself. What does Crick have to say about their working relationship, Watson’s personality, and in particular what he believed were the major elements contributing to their success? See also what F.X.S. had to say about this in (Watson/Stent 1980, pp. 177−185).
What role did Rosalind Franklin play in research dealing with DNA? What personal and professional (or unprofessional) elements become particularly important in accounting for the way her work was used by Watson and Crick? Does she deserve more credit than
Watson gives her for the crystallographic data she amassed? What roles do secrecy and competition play in the overall development of a scientific theory? Are these essential, or should ways be found to ensure open exchange of information in a uniform way? What do you make of the criticisms that have been offered in response to Watson’s book? Which of the reviews do you find the most convincing, and why? With which ones do you disagree most? Can you draw any conclusions about how science ought to be organized
to reach, most effectively, its experimental and theoretical goals? What features are most important in stimulating scientific creativity and originality? Is Watson’s account typical, in your opinion, of scientific discovery in general, or is it the egocentric viewpoint of an eccentric sensationalist? Be sure to quote from at least four different reviews in assessing Watson’s account of the discovery of the double helix, and contrasting the major differences between those who reviewed his book when it was first published.
NOTE: You should post the first draft of the third essay assignment by December 3 (50 points). The final, revised version of the third essay must be
posted by December 17 (200 points). In writing your essay, you should rely above all on primary sources. Please write no more than five pages, Be sure to give proper citations and a bibliography of all works cited. Provide as many examples to illustrate your conclusions as you think relevant from your readings. Be sure to proofread your paper for readable style, proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Please save and post your essays as MS-Word .doc or .docx file.