Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1874
Sir Lawrence Bragg
Lawrence Bragg is the director of the Cavendish lab and one of the founders of crystallography. His personality conflicts with Crick eventually lead to his decision to put a stop to Watson and Crick’s DNA research. The older professor allows the King’s College group to claim the DNA project and forces Watson and Crick to concentrate on other matters at the Cavendish lab.
Erwin Chargaff is an Austrian-born biochemist conducting his research at Columbia University in New York. He is an expert in DNA and the first to propose the correct pairing of the four base molecules of its structure: adenine pairing with thymine and guanine pairing with cytosine. When Watson and Crick learn of this theory, they begin to explore it, too. Eventually, they discover how to make a DNA model that allows for ‘‘Chargaff’s rules,’’ yet another step in uncovering the mystery of the molecule.
Francis Crick is Watson’s closest partner in the search for and discovery of the structure of DNA. Crick is twelve years older than Watson and is described by his younger colleague in The Double Helix as ‘‘almost totally unknown’’ and ‘‘often not appreciated.’’ Watson points out that other colleagues think Crick talks too much and that his booming voice and laughter are very annoying to people around him. He also stresses that Crick is exceptionally bright and quick to pick up on new theories, but that he had not had the opportunity to prove himself the accomplished scientist that everyone thought he would be. As Watson notes, Crick knew he ‘‘could produce novel ideas,’’ but ‘‘he could claim no clear-cut intellectual achievements and he was still without his Ph.D.’’
Crick came from a middle-class family in England and was working on his advanced degree when World War II broke out. To support the war effort, he joined the English Admiralty’s scientific establishment, where he was very successful at producing magnetic mines for the armed forces. After the war, however, he was not offered a future with the scientific civil services and eventually lost interest in physics. Turning his attention to biology, Crick wound up with a grant to study at the Cavendish lab, and it was there that he met Watson. At this point, neither man was concentrating specifically on DNA. As Crick’s relationship with Watson grows, so does his enthusiasm for discovery. The two become partners in an admittedly underhanded scheme to gather information from other scientists, in order to speed up the process of their own research.
Rosalind Franklin is trained in crystallography and uses X rays of DNA to try to determine its structure, as opposed to experimental model building. She arrives at the King’s College laboratory in Cambridge to work with Maurice Wilkins—who is using the same method to study the acid, but who is not as well trained in the field. Franklin is portrayed by Watson as an emotional, hot-tempered feminist who either ‘‘had to go or be put in her place.’’ Her ‘‘place,’’ as far as most of her male colleagues are concerned, is as a doting assistant who needs to ‘‘keep her emotions under control.’’ No one, however, doubts that ‘‘she had a good brain.’’
Franklin puts her good brain to work in perfecting the use of X rays in studying DNA. In 1951, she announces that the structure of the molecule is a large helix with a sugar-phosphate backbone on the outside. Watson openly admits in his book that he and Crick are attracted to Franklin’s theory and are not above taking a peek at her notes and pictures. Maurice Wilkins, also willing to be deceptive, secretly copies Franklin’s data and shows it to Watson and Crick, along with an X-ray picture. This information points Watson and Crick...
(The entire section contains 1874 words.)
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