Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA

Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA

by Gareth Williams


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An insightful history of the first hundred years of DNA, Unraveling The Double Helix tells the story one of the greatest triumphs of modern science.

Unraveling the Double Helix covers the most colorful period in the history of DNA, from the discovery of "nuclein" in the late 1860s to the publication of James Watson's The Double Helix in 1968. These hundred years included the establishment of the Nobel Prize, antibiotics, x-ray crystallography, the atom bomb and two devastating world wars—events which are strung along the thread of DNA like beads on a necklace. The story of DNA is a saga packed with awful mistakes as well as brilliant science, with a wonderful cast of heroes and villains. Surprisingly, much of it is unfamiliar. The elucidation of the double helix was one of the most brilliant gems of twentieth century science, but some of the scientists who paved the way have been airbrushed out of history. James Watson and Francis Crick solved a magnificent mystery, but Gareth Williams shows that their contribution was the last few pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle assembled over several decades.

The book is comprehensive in scope, covering the first century of the history of DNA in its entirety, including the eight decades that have been neglected by other authors. It also explores the personalities of the main players, the impact of their entanglement with DNA, and what unique qualities make great scientists tick.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643132150
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Pages: 504
Sales rank: 774,757
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Gareth Williams is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Medicine at the University of Bristol. His previous books published in Britain are Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), Paralyzed with Fear: The Story of Polio, and A Monstrous Commotion. He is a past president of the Anglo­French Medical Society and has an honorary doctorate from the University of Angers.

Table of Contents

Timeline xiii

Who's Who xviii

Preface: Not another one xxvi

1 Rewind 1

2 In the beginning 9

3 Bag of worms 23

4 Gardening leave 36

5 Of grasshoppers and flies 52

6 Bausteine 69

7 A whirlwind from Russia 81

8 Crystal gazing 93

9 The sad demise of a promising candidate 109

10 Inventions and improvements 118

11 Movable type 131

12 Transformational research 143

13 Up North 154

14 Unholy Grails 168

15 Applications of science 184

16 Dreams of geneticists 199

17 Tidying up 215

18 Tipping points 233

19 Twists and turns 249

20 Meetings of minds 262

21 Team building 284

22 Whizz kid 299

23 Handicap race 313

24 Photo finish 327

25 Aftershocks 350

26 Retrospective 371

Glossary and Abbreviations 388

Notes 394

Bibliography 454

Acknowledgements 465

Illustration Credits 469

Index 472

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