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The Research Begins

1951

Graphic showing spiral of dna flowing around human figure.

American James Watson begins working in the Cavendish Lab at Cambridge University, where he meets Englishman Frances Crick. The two scientists share a fascination with DNA and start trying to figure out its structure.

Meanwhile, Linus Pauling at Cal Tech and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College, London, are also using X-ray diffraction techniques to figure out the structure of DNA.

Watson and Crick are racing against time, trying to beat Pauling, Wilkins, and Franklin to the solution to the DNA problem.

As Watson later wrote, "DNA was still a mystery, up for grabs, and no one was sure who would get it and whether he would deserve it if it proved as exciting as we semisecretly believed." (The Double Helix, 4).

Image from (link will open in a new window) DOE Human Genome Program website

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