Monday, November 2, 2009

The Double Helix DNA Watson Part 2

Yesterday I recommended the book The Double Helix by James Watson, his own first person account of the events leading up to the determination of the chemical structure of DNA. It is a short fascinating and actually suspenseful read that I thin anyone interested in science would enjoy. As I mentioned before I am extremely awed by all the orchestrations that must take place at the biochemical and molecular levels to sustain life and for some reason more awed than by contemplating the stars.

I have never been proficient in biochemistry. I love to read about it and have learned a lot but never was very good at it. I failed to pass biochemistry in two different attempts as an undergraduate. I dropped the courses before the drop deadlines so my grades were not affected but I know I would not have done well if I continued. In medical school I had to take it again and it was the only course that I came near to failing. At that time we had a large class at the University of Tennessee and no one would be allowed to continue to progress if one did not get at least a C grade in the course. If I failed this time I would have had to wait to join the next year class of medical students and take biochemistry again. Needless to say I sweated this one out and barely received my C grade, the only one I had in school.

What is comforting for me to know and is well described in The Double Helix is that James Watson though having a Ph.D in biology never was able to pass organic chemistry. He was co-discoverer of what may be the most important organic chemical molecular structure undelrying all of life but he couldn't pass his course. The difference is that he was a genius and having initially no interest in chemistry taught himself by reading The Nature of the Chemical Bond by Linus Pauling. I don't think it spoils the book (since we know the outcome) but Linus Pauling was studying DNA at the same time as Watson and Crick!

The only negative thing about The Double Helix is the intial descriptions of another DNA reasercher Rosalind Franklin who died before this book was written.

Thought for the day

It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

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