Saturday, 20 April 2013

Nature launches "pastcasts" with 1953 DNA papers - and unsung hero of the story, Raymond Gosling

The Nature Podcast has added a new series: the Nature Pastcast, which revisits key papers from the Nature archives. The first episode looks at the famous 1953 Watson & Crick paper and the other two DNA papers from the same issue.

Watson and Crick are rightly famous for the discovery of the structure of DNA. Maurice Wilkins, who was senior authors on one of the other papers in the issue and showed Watson the famous X-Ray diffraction image of "B DNA" ("Photograph 51" [image, above right, from Wikipedia]) shared the Nobel prize with Watson and Crick.

Everyone also seems to know about Rosalind Franklin, whose group took the X-Ray image (but did not appreciate its significance) and many people was cheated of a Nobel prize because it is not awarded posthumously. There was another key player that I had never heard of until today, though, Raymond Gosling.

Having listened to the podcast, if anyone should have shared the glory of the discovery it was Gosling. It was he who took the famous Photograph 51 and he who gave it to Wilkins, who in turn showed it to Watson. Franklin, it seems, was primarily interested in solving the "A" form of DNA, of which this was not an image. You can hear more of his story in his own words in a Nature Podcast Extra interview. Interesting stuff.

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