I suppose I could say that this paper needs no introduction. And, yeah, I guess this is a bit of a reach for a Subversive Archaeologist Touchstone Thursday. But, bear with me [I really do ask you to do this often, don't I?]. This article, only very slightly more than one page in Nature, is quite possibly the most important of the twentieth (or any other) century.
Watson and Crick's 'Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids.' [Reproduced here courtesy of Nature, who've made it freely available online. Bless their pointy big heads! Click here for your own copy.]
|Click on these images to make them legible|
When I first encountered this paper I was wrong-footed, for a couple of reasons. First, it's sooo short! [Size isn't everything, after all!] Occam's rusty old razor really had something going for it. Elegant theories, even in organic chemistry, don't have to be concomitantly complex. The other facet of this article that struck me was the depth and breadth of research that was already in place by the time the authors' brilliant solution was published. Although giants themselves, they were, truly, standing on the shoulders of similarly proportioned human beings, going right back into the nineteenth century, when D.N.A. was first discovered [I love the way that W & C abbreviate the molecule's nomen with periods between the letters--it's so...quaint-seeming today, when 'dee-en-ay' is, to all intents and purposes, a vocabulary word all on its own].
For anyone who's interested [and you all should be], there's an excellent synthesis of the background to Watson and Crick's touchstone:
|Rosalind Franklin's B-form of DNA, photo 51 (Credit for photo)|