The Double Helix

by James D. Watson.

Watson, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins was awarded the 1962 Nobel prize for the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA. Watson decided to write his personal account of events, this volume being published in 1968.

It is a short little memoir, one I first read in graduate school. Fascinated as I am by the history of science, even the gossipy side of it, I decided recently it was time to re-visit it and see how it sounds now after all these years.

He's no great writer, but it reads OK. Of course he deals with the biology, but of more interest to me now, given that for nearly 30 years I haven't had to worry about the biology, is the account of life in Cambridge at that time, and particularly at the lab face as it were: the Cavendish, Wilkins' lab at King's College, etc.

And, even though they fell out later, his portrait of his then friend Crick, one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, is enlivening and worth the price of the book.
61-65, M
Nov 26, 2012