How did I find out there was such a thing as DNA? I do remember bringing The Secret of Life to day camp to keep me amused on a rainy day when I was eight or so.
To keep me amused in November, I read The Double Helix [Watson’s account of the discovery], What Mad Pursuit [Crick’s account of the discovery and his career as a scientist] and Avoid Boring People [Watson’s rehash of the discovery and his career as a scientist].
The discovery of DNA is one of the great Eureka moments with the DNA double helix being the ultimate Lego construction. But Watson’s obsessed focus on the personalities kept my focus there too primarily on his. Maybe you could retrospectively forgive him for being an obnoxious and insensitive boy genius at 25 when he figured out how DNA was arranged and even for being immature and shallow at 40 when he wrote The Double Helix. But unless you’re going to forgive him for being over the hill at 79 when he wrote Avoid Boring People, the simplest conclusion is that Watson is yet another example of how success and being a good human being are inversely related.
Crick fit more into the sage mode of E O Wilson’s Notes to A Young Scientist [read earlier this year]. Much easier to take. If I am ever asked for guidance in choosing a career, I will use Crick’s gossip test-“what you are really interested in is what you gossip about.” As simple as the structure of DNA and as classy too.

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