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Elegance and beauty in scientific theories


Gradual acceptance of the structure of DNA
Francis Crick Scientist
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That’s greatly exaggerated by the script… scriptwriter, I mean, we did have people coming and… and Jim [Watson] got rather tired of my repetitive enthusiasm describing the structure but… but we… we didn’t know the structure was right, remember. We thought it was probably right but we didn’t know that it was really right and Jim certainly had grave reservations at first. And this scene where we went out to the pub and had this great celebration, that’s totally fictitious, I mean, there was nothing like that. We were… we were, sort of, pleased about it and thought… this looks like a jolly good idea but… jolly good ideas are not always right. It actually took 25 years to show that that idea was really right. I mean, it… of course, it went in… in various stages of being a good idea to being pretty plausible to being fairly probable to being very probable to being almost certainly right, but the… that final stage took 25 years. There were still people who were saying it wasn’t a double helix 20… after 20 years after the structure, putting forward alternative models, which were wrong.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Life Story, James Watson

Duration: 1 minute, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008