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Genetics Unzipped: Twisted history – the true story of the double helix

Posted by , on 23 April 2020

Francis Crick's Pencil sketch of DNA
Francis Crick’s sketch of the double helical structure of DNA. Wellcome Images, Wellcome Trust via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY 4.0

Like many science enthusiasts, I read the book The Double Helix when I was a student. It’s a dramatic tale of how American geneticist James Watson and British molecular biologist Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA back in the early 1950s. Of course, being written by Watson himself, it’s no surprise that he’s the dashing hero of the story.

But there are so many more overlooked names and wonderful stories that deserve to be told, even around something as seemingly well-documented as DNA. Someone who’s spent plenty of time unearthing them is Gareth Williams, author of ‘Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA.’

The names of James Watson and Francis Crick are inextricably linked with the discovery of the DNA double helix. And if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll also know that credit is due to Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins and Ray Gosling too. But what about Elwyn Beighton, Fred Griffith or Rudolf Signer?

In this episode we’re unwinding history to uncover some of the less well-known stories behind the discovery of the structure and function of DNA.

Genetics Unzipped is the podcast from The Genetics Society. Full transcript, links and references available online at GeneticsUnzipped.com

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If you enjoy the show, please do rate and review on Apple podcasts and help to spread the word on social media. And you can always send feedback and suggestions for future episodes and guests to podcast@geneticsunzipped.com Follow us on Twitter – @geneticsunzip




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