Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of one of the most remarkable scientific achievements in recent history—James Watson and Francis Crick’s co-discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA. The NIH:
The discovery in 1953 of the double helix, the twisted-ladder structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), by James Watson and Francis Crick marked a milestone in the history of science and gave rise to modern molecular biology, which is largely concerned with understanding how genes control the chemical processes within cells. In short order, their discovery yielded ground-breaking insights into the genetic code and protein synthesis. During the 1970s and 1980s, it helped to produce new and powerful scientific techniques, specifically recombinant DNA research, genetic engineering, rapid gene sequencing, and monoclonal antibodies, techniques on which today’s multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry is founded. Major current advances in science, namely genetic fingerprinting and modern forensics, the mapping of the human genome, and the promise, yet unfulfilled, of gene therapy, all have their origins in Watson and Crick’s inspired work.
The famous DNA double-helix is not only a breakthrough in biology, it has become iconic in our culture, symbolizing the nexus between life and information:
Here is American James Watson talking about the discovery, for which he won a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1962 along with co-discoverer Francis Crick, a British physicist.
As with too many things in the contemporary Globalist American Empire, the remarkable and inspiring story of Watson and Crick’s discovery has been partially overshadowed and sullied by a desperate attempt at politically correct revisionism. The politically correct narrative is that evil, sexist Watson and Crick “stole” the discovery from British chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin.
While Rosalind Franklin was a phenomenal scientist in her own right, the notion that Watson and Crick “stole” the DNA discovery from her is overblown and politicized. At most, Watson and Crick looked at some of her data and this data helped them to arrive at DNA’s true structure. For those interested, the following Twitter thread gives a fair account of what credit is due where in relation to Franklin’s contributions:
Many ppl believe that Watson and Crick stole Franklin’s data when Watson glimpsed Photograph 51. Told in Watson’s The Double Helix (1968), this is not true (NC, forthcoming, shows the book is semi-fictional). But Photograph 51 is widespread in culture, eg on a UK 50p piece. 2/23 pic.twitter.com/SUkRzwDlZm
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 25, 2023
We found a 1953 letter to Crick from a student at King’s, implying that Franklin knew her MRC report data would be shared with Watson and Crick, and was relaxed about this. We found no evidence that she felt robbed—and this letter suggests that she did not feel this way. 7/23 pic.twitter.com/tqi2iqZ82O
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 25, 2023
To get a sense of how extensively the Rosalind Franklin “sexism” narrative has seeped into the story of the structure of DNA’s discovery, take a look at the top news search results for Watson and Crick on the 70th anniversary of their historic scientific breakthrough:
The manufactured sexism controversy was just a drop in the bucket compared to what was in store for Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA structure, James Watson.
Indeed, James Watson was subject to one of the very first and most vicious and extensive cancellation campaigns in our nation’s history. His offense? Addressing the question of Africa with an aloof scientist’s obliviousness to certain religiously guarded taboos surrounding the subject. The following is a relevant excerpt of his offending comments that were published as part of a 2007 Sunday Times profile on the famous scientist:
He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.”
Leaving aside the only scientifically relevant question of whether Watson’s assertions were true (he’s just a Nobel laureate DNA expert, what would he know), they were certainly impolite and politically inadvisable. The profound retaliatory response to Watson’s 2007 statements marked one of the very first major mobilizations of the modern cancellation machine.
Immediately after his remarks became public, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory fired Watson, despite Watson having served as the Laboratory’s President and Director for over 35 years. Egged on by a menacing media, politicians and scientists condemned Watson. Speaking engagements dried up, and Watson, once one of the most revered living scientists, became something of a pariah. The Science Museum of London cancelled a sold-out speech Watson was set to deliver, and Rockefeller University cancelled another speaking engagement. Eric Lander, director of Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute, elicited a furor for simply acknowledging Watson’s productive participation in the early days of the Human Genome Project. Under tremendous pressure, Lander apologized, assuring the Broad Insitute that “I reject his [Watson’s] views as despicable… they have no place in science, which must welcome everyone. I was wrong to toast, and I’m sorry.”