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Watson's The Double Helix
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.