The Watson-Crick model of the DNA double helix. The history
of the discovery and the role of the protein paradigm

Hagemann R.
Acta Hist Leopoldina. 2007;(48):113-58.


At the beginning, the two fundamental papers by Watson and Crick published in 1953 are presented. Subsequently, the main phases of protein and nucleic acids research, starting in the middle of the 19th century, are shortly reviewed. It is outlined, how the 'protein-paradigm' was gradually developed and ultimately became widely accepted. It is then described how Caspersson in 1936 newly raised the question what the chemical nature of genes was: proteins or nucleic acids ? In the main part of this report six lines of research are reviewed, the results of which led to the demise of the 'protein paradigm', the creation of the Watson-Crick model of the DNA and the elaboration of the mechanism of DNA replication: (a) mutation experiments with UV and determination of the UV action spectrum, (b) determination of the chemical identity of the transforming agent in bacteria, (c) detailed chemical analysis of the DNA of different organisms, (d) molecular investigation of the infection of bacteria by bacteriophages, (e) X-ray analysis of DNA fibers, (f) model building and theoretical treatment of all data obtained. In this article, the factors promoting and inhibiting scientific progress in this field are described (and, above all, the relations between scientists with fixated concepts). The results from these lines of research led to the recognition of the decisive role of nucleic acids as the carriers of genetic information and, in this way, formally established the 'nucleic acid paradigm'. Finally the question is discussed why Watson and Crick found the right solution for the DNA structure (and not one of their competitors).
Maurice Wilkins
Rosalind Franklin
Personal genomics
Genetic enhancement
Ashkenazi intelligence
Eugenics before Galton
Scandanavian eugenics
The James Watson Affair
The literature of eugenics
Human self-domestication
Germline genetic engineering
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
A life without pain? Hedonists take note'
Francis Galton and contemporary eugenics
Gene therapy and performance enhancement
5-HTT and AP-2beta gene polymorphism/spirituality

and further reading

BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
MDMA: Utopian Pharmacology
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World