Book Club: The Double Helix

doublehelixIn case you missed why I’m creating a book club, check out my previous post.

The first book in the book club is The Double Helix written by the Nobel Prize winner James Watson.  He won the Nobel Prize along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 by discovering the structure of DNA (learn more about DNA in my earlier post What is DNA?).  This is a provocative book written by a provocative scientist about how he came to discover this structure (a great review of the book can be found here).  Much of it deals with the relationship with Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who created the images that provided Watson with the information that allowed him to determine the structure, and his other colleagues. This book also gives you insight into the mind of a scientist (though please don’t use this book to judge all scientists because his personality really is a unique one). If you’re interested in the original scientific publication, you can find it here – it’s incredibly short, considering its significance.

After my mom read this book, she put it down and asked me “I understand that they solved the structure and all, but why was it so important?” This was so important because this structure indicated that the bases (described here) paired together: A with T and G with C.  This meant that the sequence of either strand could be used as templates to copy the DNA. Copying DNA needs to be done every time a cell divides – and considering that humans (who have 37 trillion cells) come from one original cell (the fertilized egg), that’s a LOT of dividing that needs to be done.

An interesting aside – I’ve met and talking with Jim Watson many times since he was the Chancellor at the graduate school I attended.  He was an interesting character.  His legacy is very much defined by this discovery, but also of his vision for the laboratory that he ran on Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  My Mom has met him several times as well, and I suppose both of us can legitimately say that we have learned a few things from a Noble Prize winner.

For more Book Club books, click here.

4 thoughts on “Book Club: The Double Helix

  1. Will you be having books that are oriented toward engineering as well as science.
    Here are some suggestions:. These books are all by Henry Petrotski.

    Beyond Engineering: Essays and Other Attempts to Figure without Equations (1986), ISBN 978-0-312-07785-3

    The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990), ISBN 978-0-679-73415-4

    The Evolution of Useful Things (1992), ISBN 978-0-679-74039-1

    Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering (1994), ISBN 978-0-521-46649-3

    Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and The Spanning of America (1995), ISBN 978-0-679-76021-4

    Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing (1996), ISBN 978-0-674-46368-4

    Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering (1997), ISBN 978-0-375-70024-8

    The Book on the Bookshelf (1999), ISBN 978-0-375-70639-4

    Paperboy: Confessions of a Future engineer (2002), ISBN 978-0-375-71898-4

    Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design (2003), ISBN 978-1-4000-3293-8

    Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering (2004), ISBN 978-1-4000-3294-5

    Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design. (2006), ISBN 978-0-691-13642-4

    The Toothpick: Technology and Culture. (2007), ISBN 978-0-307-27943-9

    The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems. (2010), ISBN 978-0-307-27245-4

    The Engineer’s Alphabet: Gleanings from the Softer Side of a Profession. (2011), ISBN 978-1-107-01506-7

    To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure. (2012), ISBN 978-0-674-06584-0

    The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship. (2014), ISBN 978-0-393-2404-1

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    • Yes I’m using WordPress. It’s pretty easy to use and you shouldn’t need any coding knowledge to get started (although I do know how to code in HTML). WordPress has a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to customize the blog and add new features, and I’m still learning too! I would suggest creating an account and just trying it out.

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