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The Francis Crick Papers

Letter from James D. Watson to Francis Crick pdf (440,418 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from James D. Watson to Francis Crick
Until Watson's and Crick's theory of the double helix was fully verified experimentally in the late 1970s, some researchers proposed alternative structures of DNA, mainly that the two strands of DNA were linear, not helical. One was Jerry Donohue, the physical chemist who had first informed Watson of the correct chemical form of the bases of DNA, thereby enabling the latter to uncover the pairing rules. In his letter Watson dismissed an alternative proposed by Donohue and Gunther Stent, a molecular geneticist at the University of California at Berkeley.
In addition, Watson reviewed chromosome experiments conducted by other researchers, and described his adjustment to his new professorship at Harvard, including setting up a laboratory for studying bacterial viruses (phages).
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (440,418 Bytes)
1956-09-23 (September 23, 1956)
Watson, James D.
Crick, Francis
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
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Reproduced with permission of James D. Watson.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Exhibit Category:
Defining the Genetic Coding Problem, 1954-1957
Box Number: 26
Folder Number: PP/CRI/D/2/45
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence
SubSeries: Individual Correspondents
Folder: Correspondence: Watson, James D
September 23, 1956
Dear Francis
Have you seen the mating helix MS by Gunther Stent and Jerry Donahue. I would guess that you have been sent one. I think it is a complete disgrace and I'm in the mood to write a short note pointing out the ambiguities in their model. They both fail to (1) give coordinates and (2) to give the directions in bond angles around the glucosidic bond. Do you agree with my mood. It is another Schachman-Dekker like paper. I assume it will come out in the PNAS. I am writing Gunther to indicate my feelings. I don't think it should be published in any case but if Gunther really desires, he should give coordinates.
The Berkeley rat-race is disgusting
Taylor at Brookhaven has repeated Mazia's chromosome expt with the opposite result. Two main differences in his expt. (1) he uses Vicia -- not Crepis. (2) his thymidine is labelled [sic] with Tritium -- not C14. Its beta tracks are much shorter than those from C14 and so he can localize the track to its host chromosome. His results following several generations of uniform labelling [sic] and then into the cold medium
1st division [?] -- both chromosomes radioactive
2nd " one hot -- one cold.
So chromosome is divided into two parts. Whether this is 2 fold polyteny and two stranded DNA is undecided. Nevertheless a very elegant result.
At the phage meeting in CSH, Levinthal presented a new scheme for crossing over in phage It involves (1) switching of templates, and (2) making of second (minus) new strand, not on parent strand but on newly formed (plus) strand. Topologically nice -- Because of other things I have had almost no time to think about it. I would guess that he is on the right track -- it is the first time that it "smells" correct.
I have been quite busy setting up a phage lab, but now things are beginning to work and we have both plagues and much to keep us busy. We are working on the very small phage phi 10 -- about 10 times smaller than T2. Unfortunately classes start tomorrow and I must spend much time preparing lectures and a lab. We are starting to grow TMV in preparation for work on solution properties.
My little ex-girl friend has eloped with a German non intellectual engineer. Altogether a very sad story as it culminated a six month anti intellectual binge. Her parents are very very unhappy as there seems to be nothing good about the marriage. He is apparently warm hearted, but lacks any interest in books, music, or art in addition to being penniless. So it is hard to imagine it lasting but by then it will be too late for her to come back to the life she intended to live. She was much to [sic] young to be left on her own. It is a most unfortunate reaction against the intellectual life she was brought up in. It has been a very cutting blow to her parents as they had always placed great faith in her common sense. Fortunately, I was prepared by her mood of last winter. So I am not in a depressed mood -- Just saddened by what might have been
with best regards to Odile
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