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am 1. April 2000
While I am glad to see the current rush to purchase M. Greene's best seller (which I reviewed), there are good arguments for putting first priority on Watson's The Double Helix. Not only did Watson and Crick win the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, but Watson reveals much about what makes a Creative Genius tick (which Greene's book does not). One of these ingredients is non-conformity, even non-conformity with the mainstream of one's own field of research. Watson is non-conformist to the point of embarrassment, revealing his arguments with colleagues whom I would describe as Ingenious Followers in part at least (as well as those colleagues' own weaknesses). Secondly, Creative Geniuses have an unusually strong motivation typically. In the case of Watson and Crick, they had a competitive spirit to win against their colleagues (who were also trying to unravel DNA) in the race for the discovery, and their competitive spirit was an absolute obsession "day and night". Thirdly, they built ingenious toy models of DNA with movable parts which enabled them to use more sensory modalities to help them think. Fourthly, they kept up completely with what their rivals were doing, which is to say that they sought and used information wisely and in a timely manner. Fifth, they used the computer technology of their era to the fullest (which Creative Geniuses sometimes do not do - compare Roger Penrose, whose books I have reviewed). Sixth, they were incredibly mobile - they went to different countries frequently to learn, to attend seminars, to talk with experts in particular areas, especially countries in Europe (where Creative Geniuses are more common, in my opinion, than in most parts of the world). You will find many other characteristics of Creative Geniuses by reading the Watson-Crick story yourself.
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am 17. Oktober 1999
Several previous reviewers of "The Double Helix" have, rightly it seems, upbraided Watson for his negative portrait of Rosalind Franklin and his downplaying of her contributions to his and Crick's elucidation of the structure of DNA. The new book by Meyer Friedman and Gerald Friedland, "Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries," of course contains a chapter on this achievement, interestingly entitled "Maurice Wilkins and DNA." It tells the story of Franklin's involvement with the DNA research and the political abuse to which she was treated during her fellowship at Kings College London--a post from which she was ultimately fired. It also shows how Franklin's conflict with Wilkins--and his with her--probably cost the two of them the first prize in the race for the discovery. It was a race which Watson & Crick won by a whisker.
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am 25. Februar 2000
Double Helix is a worthy read. In a few hours of reading, one catches a fairly representative look into the scientific commmunity, though the eyes of one man. Some people critique this book as being one-sided. Of course it is! Watson admitted that up front. The book was written as an account his perceptions of the events and people involved with the discovery of the structure of DNA, not as a documentary. Like any human, Watson's perceptions of the events were scewed in his own favor. This, however, adds to the value of the book, rather than detracts. From my experience in the scientific community, the issues of ownership of ideas and work, plagarism, and politics are both real and complex. Double Helix does a good job of exemplifying these difficult issues.
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am 14. Mai 2000
I read this book for the first time when i took undergraduate biochemistry in college. I could not put it down. Now, ten years later, i found it at a second-hand store and re-read it, and once again read it in two sittings. This book reads like a thriller. You definitively catch a sense of the urgency of their research. I was flipping pages nervously, like i didn't know Watson and Crick were the ones who won the race.
In the edition i have, Watson is very thankful about the contributions that Rosalind Franklin made to their discovery. He is crystal clear about how she was the one convinced that the backbone was on the outside, and had not he followed her advice, it would have taken him even longer to figure out the structure, and who knows?, Pauling might have gotten there first. In the epilogue, Watson is all praise about Rosalind, acknowledges how his opinions about her were often wrong, how excellent the quality of her work was, and ponders about the obstacles that she encountered in her career in science for being a woman.
I wonder if these comments were missing in other people's books, because according to their critiques, one comes out with the idea that Watson and the male-dominated scientific establishment gave Rosalind the cancer that killed her.
This is an excellent, honest account of an event that took place when the author was 25 years old. I could not believe my eyes when i read that sentence. Twenty-five, worrying about girls and tennis and the structure of the most important molecule in the universe. These facts might count for something. This is a must-read book, for everybody, whether you understand science or not.
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am 9. Januar 2000
As a science teacher it is horrifying to me that anyone is being required to read this self-serving piece of fiction for a science class. (Unless perhaps as a negative example of deplorable ethics.) Watson's account of the discovery of the structure of the DNA helix is so fraught with falsehoods that it could at best only be called historical fiction. His need to vilify and degrade Rosalind Franklin (whose essential (and stolen) work he used) can hardly be something that is admirable. For a factual account of events read Rosalind Franklin & DNA by Anne Sayre instead. No, it will not be an easy read, but you will certainly get a different view and it is backed up with facts and dates.
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am 10. August 1998
The Double Helix refreshed my view of scientific research. The novel gave a closer look into the discoverers and how an amazing task, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA, is produced. I chose to read this book for my AP Biology class and was not enthusiastic in the beginning. I believed that I would need a medical dictionary at my side for reference. However, my hypothesis was disproven and I understood the makings of the DNA. The only minor flaw that I can discover is that even though the technical language is explained there is still quite alot of it. Therefore, examine it carefully. The Double Helix provided a fresh new outlook on scientific research.
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am 10. September 1999
James Watson's book, The Double Helix, gives the not-so-scientific public excellent insight into how the scientific process was put to work less than fifty years ago to make a discovery that changed everything we know about biology and medicine. In an age where science is becoming increasingly important yet even less understood, this book portrays science as the dectective story that it is while throwing a delightfully human light on the scientists whose passion it is to unravel the puzzell. A quick, enjoyable, and necessary read for anyone who is or ever has been interested in science, as well as anyone else who likes a good "detective" story.
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am 19. Juni 1997
Though the structure of DNA is now common knowledge to virtually everyone (both scientist and layman alike), reading this book really put into context the excitement of of having made this huge discovery. I really enjoyed reading this little book and it actually changed my perception of researchers from "strange people with thick glasses who spend their whole day looking at a dark spot on some rare beetle" to "interesting people with somewhat thin glasses who still spend their whole day looking at some dark spot on a beetle". Seriously, if you think science is boring - this book is especially for you. Recommended
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am 5. Februar 2000
Watson was brilliant in bringing pieces of his vague memory and prejudices. What we have here is in part the fact of history and in part a very enjoyable work of fiction.
Really, people who read this book usually finishes in a few hours. This is amazing compared to the time it takes to read the hopeless eulogy given by Anne Sayer.
However, as a man of considerable authority, Watson should have taken the usual scholary precautions and double-chekced when he was talking about "people". I think any serious reader must consult Anne Sayer, albeit painful, for a balanced viewpoint.
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am 5. Mai 1999
As a young woman in the still male-dominated world of science and technology, this book was utterly disappointing. Unfortunately, it is an easy read and proposes to be fact, misinforming its millions of readers as to what really went on behind the scenes of the lab. If you read this book, I suggest you immediately read Anne Sayre's "Rosalind Franklin and DNA." If you are a woman reading this book, then that doubly holds true.
Watson's portrayal of the one woman involved in this great discovery is not only biased, but pure fiction. It is unexcusable. Franklin was responsible for much of the research that led to Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA, a discovery which gained them and Wilkins the Nobel Prize. Not only did Watson and Crick use her findings without her knowledge or consent, but did not even give her the proper credit for it.
For a great scientist to make a statement such as "the best place for a feminist is in another person's lab" is horrific. A step backwards for any woman attempting to make a name for herself as a serious scientist. That this book has been so widely read and acclaimed makes it even worse.
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