Double Helix Essay

Double Helix Essay - Steve Shaffer Porter/deChadarevian...

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Steve Shaffer Porter/deChadarevian History 3C (1D) 3 December 2007 The Purpose Behind the Basis of Life A history of science course poses a definite logistical dilemma: what to read? There is no standard textbook for such a specific field of history, and although there is a good deal of literature written on the subject, the books do not seem to collectively subscribe to a particular genre of literature. A particularly problematic predicament is encountered in trying to find the definitive text on Francis Crick and James Watson’s discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA, one of the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century. Watson’s book The Double Helix has been so widely circulated and contributed so much to the common man’s perception of the discovery of the double helix that it is impossible to ignore in looking at the history of that momentous event. However, it is far from perfect; the book was only half-written as a history book. In the preface, Watson gives two main reasons for the book’s creation: “because many of [his] scientific friends [had] expressed curiosity about how the double helix was found,” and more importantly he says, because “there remains general ignorance about how science is ‘done’” (Watson 3). Before the book even begins, Watson clearly lets the reader know that this is not going to be a perfect historical summary of events. This book is about the process of science, and the content is meant first and foremost to portray that, and to summarize history only secondarily. Then if this book is to be studied, it must be studied carefully and in context with other’s opinions on the topics discussed by looking at not only Watson’s book, but also commentaries on the book and other works on the topic. If not, the reader could obtain distorted
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This essay was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course HIST 3C taught by Professor Porter during the Spring '07 term at UCLA.

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Double Helix Essay - Steve Shaffer Porter/deChadarevian...

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