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The Double Helix

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  12,896 Ratings  ·  636 Reviews
By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry & won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only 24, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science's g ...more
Paperback, 143 pages
Published February 1st 1969 by Signet Books (first published 1968)
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Petra 1. Your question is... not a question.
2. Yes, James Watson is a(n) [insert swearword] as a person. Anyone who has taken any note of this guy past the…more
1. Your question is... not a question.
2. Yes, James Watson is a(n) [insert swearword] as a person. Anyone who has taken any note of this guy past the discovery of the double-helix structure should be aware of it.
3. You are right about the contributions of others being kinda brushed under the table (and NOT just Franklin's).
4. And yet - the exact construction of the DNA was, undeniably, the brain-product of Watson and Crick that other scientists failed to come up with before them. It IS terrible behavior to diminish other people's contributions and steal their work (especially if your part required - pretty much - no experimentation of your own), but it is also true that all scientific discovery is based on previous work. It is possible to discuss endlessly who in the process are the exact people who deserve an award. Opinions will reasonably differ.
5. Worth repeating: James Watson is a terrible human being.
6. For clarification: The merit of a scientific discovery should be judged independently from how much of a terrible person someone is. Even under this aspect, the awarding may still be questionable, but it is still an important point to note.
7. That people are calling Watson out for misogynism, racism and other horrible statements is a good thing - and I am glad they do. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jan 06, 2016 Emer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science undergraduates in particular biochemists and geneticists
Do not view my rating on this book as an indictment of the science. The story of the discovery of the structure of DNA is a fascinating one and makes for a compelling must-read book. The research behind it merited a Nobel Award... But as any first year science student worth their salt can tell you it is a story mired in controversy.

I was enthralled by the continuous advancement of ideas that led to the double helical model that we all are familiar with today, but what is deeply unsettling about
Dec 24, 2013 Nikki rated it did not like it
I ended up skimming this. I really hope his more recent book DNA: The Secret of Life is considerably more interesting and considerably less sexist. It should be a fascinated story, but really it's mostly about James D. Watson bouncing around between different supervisors and making sexist comments about Rosalind Franklin -- sorry, "Rosy", who would've been much better in his eyes if she'd done something with her hair.

I can understand his fascination with DNA, but that's just about all I could ge
Jun 29, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“In the end, though, science is what matters; scientists not a bit.”
― Steve Jones in, James D. Watson's The Double Helix


I gave it three stars last night (DNA night, thanks Riku), but that just didn't seem right. The structure wasn't stable, and I felt it probably deserved four stars (one for A, one for T, one for G, one for C; also one for Watson, one for Crick, one for Wilkins, and yes one for Franklin).

Short, interesting, personal and important but also sexist, biased, & according to Cric
Nov 03, 2013 Douglas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I made the mistake of reading this over a long period of time. I see now that it really needs to be read in just a few sittings. Also, a basic background in chemistry and physics (none of which I have) would be beneficial. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

This is the riveting story of the discovery of the secret of life, the helical structure of DNA. Even though the Nobel award was given to both James D. Watson and Francis Crick, the pendulum of recognition swings to Watson for this well-known acco
Jul 17, 2008 Carlos rated it it was ok
Shows how arrogant, misogynistic, and plain stupid the "discoverers" of DNA's double helix were.

Pros: Emphasizes the importance of being able to access a free, open, creative, in some ways childish state of mind in order to allow for truly creative and "defocalized" states of mind that allow for scientific discovery. Tunnel vision can be a scientist's worst nightmare.

Cons: Shows how childish, pretentious and socially inept the scientific establishment can be. Also shows how a great scientist wh
Sep 20, 2012 Tony61 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
James D. Watson became a controversial figure later in life, but this story recounts the seminal event in his life: the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA for which he received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology with his collaborator Francis Crick and another, Maurice Wilkins.

Watson is an excellent storyteller, something which cannot be said of most scientists. He successfully ensnares the reader into the drama of the moment, describing the personalities involved and making the science atta
Tariq Alferis
Jan 06, 2014 Tariq Alferis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
اللولب المزدوج . الحمض النووي . اصل الحياة

الأن فترة استعداد لي إمتحان القادم في بايو كمستري ، كان نصيب الأمس في دراسة شيت "شابتر"الأحماض النووية ، وبالطبع الدكتور شرح مقدمة علي مكتشف الدنا ، وطبعا فضولي النابع من الحسد للمكتشفين

واصحاب جائزة نوبل خلاني نبحث عليه لعند ماوصلت لتحفة ورواية شخصية لي اكتشاف أهم اكتشاف علمي لحد الأن ،..!

المهم في بداية كانت صدمة أنه جمس واطسون دخل الجامعة شيكاغو وعمره 14 السنة ..! عبقرية ياسي ..!

لكن علي حسب السرد في الكتاب ، وحسب مقولة واطسون ..ان كل العلماء أغبياء .
Mar 26, 2013 heidi rated it it was ok
I have no doubt that James Watson was a (pretty) competent scientist - although the way he writes it, every thing seemed to favor him up to the discovery of the double helix structure. He chose the field by a mix of chance and cunning, having eliminated other fields which would require more effort, by his own words (I suppose some people call it self-disparaging, but somehow to me it reads like a humble brag) and less likely to yield the chance to make a huge discovery. If that's not cheating sc ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I had to read this book for a science class in college. I've never forgiven that teacher.
Roy Lotz
After reading Bill Bryson’s wonderful A Short History of Nearly Everything, I’ve been effectively disabused of the notion that scientists are purely logical, rational, and reasonable folk, and that science progresses through mild-mannered and careful thinking. I bet it does, sometimes. But, like any dynamic human activity, science is populated by a diverse group of people. Some, I’m sure, are the workaday, tame people we like to imagine in white lab coats. But we also have half-deranged incorrig ...more
محمد سلامة
"من الممكن حتى لهاوي طيور سابق أن يحل الحمض النووي ! " ~ جيمس واطسون .

العلم ليس كما كنا نظن .. ليس لمجموعة أشخاص بمعاطف بيضاء.. معزولين عن العالم ويعيشون في المختبرات مع فئران التجارب !
العلم في الحقيقة تجربة إنسانية من الدرجة الأولى .. تحوي بين طياتها مشاعر إنسانية مختلطة .. من حقد وكراهية وتنافس وخوف وتحدي وهزيمة وانتصار .. أكثر ما أعجبني في الكتاب هو تركيز واطسون - في أثناء بحثه عن التركيب المثالي للـ دنا - أنه لابد أن يكون جميلًا وبسيطًا .. و عندما اكتشف النموذج، كان على يقين تام بأن شيئًا ب
Sep 11, 2011 Shawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shawn by: Jason Reuter
This book was probably ten times as fun to read as I suspected it would be. The very idea of it, and its drab wrappings, led me to believe it would be dull, full of scientific mumbo-jumbo, slow, and poorly written. It was none of these. It's one of the few books that I have had a hard time putting down. The race between team Watson and Crick vs Linus was riveting, and even though I knew how it would generally work out, I was worried and on edge until their paper was published. I was especially i ...more
John Jr.
In Broca’s Brain, a collection of essays published in the late 70s, Carl Sagan spoke of the practice of science in rather idealistic terms, suggesting a noble, relatively selfless, and grandly cooperative pursuit by men and women in far-flung locations. In a review of that book, I suggested The Double Helix as a corrective; it made clear that competition, hunger for personal acclaim, and a desire to show up the famous guy (a role played here by Linus Pauling) all figure into the progress of scie ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Safae rated it liked it
Shelves: sciences
لطالما قرأت عن ثرثرة كريك فرانسيس وجايمس واطسون
وهذه الرواية أكدت لي الكثير من هذه الحقائق
ورغم اني كنت مريضة خلال قرائتي لها فقد زادت من سوء حالتي بعض فصول هذا الكتاب
مازاد إثارتي هي الفصول الاخيرة واقتراب اكتشافهما لبنية الحمض النووي
Liana Ohana
Mar 17, 2017 Liana Ohana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I cant remeber ONE word i just read soooo boring not my cup of tea , hon just no dont read if easily bored
But if you like DNA and stuff? give it a go?
Becky Douglas
How to review The Double Helix? As a scientist who also happens to be a woman, I'm already biased against James Watson and Francis Crick, the two scientists credited with the discovery of DNA, because I'm aware of Rosalind Franklin. It's not very many pages into the book before Franklin appears and Watson's description of her makes me cross, but he's already failed to endear himself to me long before I get even that far.

I'm not sure how tongue in cheek he's being, but he comes across as lazy and
So...umm. Hmm. Okay right off the bat, if you're not someone with a lot of biochem in their brain, this book is one-half to one-third wholly unfuckingcomprehensible. I say this as someone whose college sciences were Astrology and Geology. This was never meant to be the weird, scandalous, ego-driven smash hit it ended up being, is my impression. It didn't seem like Watson entirely expected the backlash and sensation of it. But there the book was, on Time Magazine's Top 100 non-fiction books, and ...more
Troy Blackford
Jun 19, 2014 Troy Blackford rated it liked it
Watson is one of those figures who's opinion of himself is so high, you can't help but be dissuaded from feeling the respect you would have been willing to give him merely on the basis of his accomplishments. Reading this book was full of cringe-worthy moments of self-aggrandizement, and times when his accounts of trying to pick up French girls at parties and things of that nature were just unwanted. Written in the late sixties about events that happened in the early fifties, I shouldn't be surp ...more
Glad I finally read this classic. It's a quick-reading sketch, two or three hours, a half day at most if you need a break. Watson's prose is obscurely ironic at times, which keeps the reader on his toes (or bores him as the case may be) along with quite a bit of humor if you are looking for it. The science, not difficult even at its original full strength, is hardly toned-down for the popular reader, which is a disctinct positive. Watson avoids confusion by simply skipping a few topics, like the ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Battle_slug rated it it was amazing
Just finished this book. What can i say? It is totally worth reading, but if you are not afraid of some scientific words and descriptions. For me it is one of the best books ever, and i will explain why.
First of all this short book tells about how really big discoveries are being made: surprisingly the regular people are making them. But those people are keen to make something new. They don't bother about the money, or sex, or new car - the biggest passion possessing them is the science. Such bo
Ioannis Savvas
Η διπλή έλικα είναι η αυτοβιογραφία της ανακάλυψης της δομής του DNA. Ο James Watson περιγράφει βήμα-βήμα την πορεία μιας από τις σημαντικότερες ανακαλύψεις όλων των εποχών. Είναι ένα βιβλίο σημαντικό από πολλές απόψεις. Γνωρίζεις τις επιστημονικές διαμάχες της εποχής, τον τρόπο δουλειάς των επιστημόνων, ακόμα και τις ίντριγκες μεταξύ τω εργαστηρίων για την πρωτιά σε έναν αγώνα δρόμου για το Nobel. Και μάλιστα σε έναν αγώνα με διαφορετικές ταχύτητες από τις σημερινές: οι νέες επιστημονικές δημοσ ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Very short memoir/history by Watson of his and Cricks unravelling of DNA and coming up with the double helix. Thanks to X-ray crystallography and studies by experimentalists like Rosiland Franklin and near misses like JBS Haldane's attempts to model DNA as triple helix Watson and Crick were able to figure out the double helix and the G to C and A to T pairings of the nucleotides and provide a foundation for Genetics. Many teams at the time thought DNA was probably the molecule responsible for c ...more
Feb 20, 2010 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The molecular structure of DNA was determined in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick. That was probably the most influential discovery in all of biology and chemistry during that century. This book was written by Watson (comparatively younger and inexperienced compared to Crick, at the time) about how they did it. In great detail, he explains how they did it by essentially using Rosalind Franklin's data without her permission, how the more notorius Linus Pauling nearly beat them to it, and ho ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
This should be required reading for all biology and chemistry majors. Understanding the structure of DNA is especially important in the era of genetics, but this book also gives insight into the people behind the science, which is all too often overlooked.

An aside: I literally ran into Watson when I came barreling around a corner with my arms full of books and papers. He helped me pick it all up before continuing on his way.
☆ ĄňŊǡƂėƮĦ ☆ ŞŧŎŋė

Full review coming soon.
Mar 28, 2017 Tao rated it really liked it
vividly how scientific breakthrough were done, with very human touch.
Vicki Doronina
Dec 24, 2012 Vicki Doronina rated it liked it
Is it just me, or are there not many well-written scientific memoirs around? Even the words “scientific memoir” brings up an image of a long and boring book. There are a lot of good books written about scientists, but not by scientists. Maybe it’s because the scientists are trained to write logically, objectively and dispassionately: this approach results in good papers and science books, but not a compelling “after hours” reading.

“The Double Helix” by James Watson of Watson-Crick fame is a scie
Mar 12, 2012 04victorias rated it did not like it
Who on earth would want to read an entire book about genetics and DNA? I certinly wouldn't, but I did because I had to for my grade in Biology. This book was very boring and confusing. There definately was a lot of information that might interest scientist or people studying that subject. Informative books are very great resources for research though. If you are researching stuff about DNA or genetics this would be a great book for you.

James D. Watson was the main character in the book. There we
Oct 24, 2016 Trice rated it really liked it
Upon finishing:
That was an interesting and an entertaining read. Glad to put aside claims of misogyny - I was doubtful of some readers' claims re: Watson's attitude toward Rosy because it seemed he just found her obnoxious, completely independent of any gender question. The last couple chapters of the book, in addition to his brief eulogy for her at the end, seem to affirm this opinion - while he does come to view her in more positive terms, it is because of how all the science works out and the
David Withun
May 02, 2017 David Withun rated it liked it
Shelves: science
For their discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), James D. Watson along with co-researchers Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. In his book The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, Watson recounts the story of the genesis of that discovery, including the problems and previous discoveries which led to it as well as the central role he played in finally making the discovery.

In th
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In 1928, James D. Watson was born in Chicago. Watson, who co-discovered the double helix structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) at age 25, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. His bird-watching hobby prompted his interest in genetics. He earned his B.Sc. degree in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1947, and his Ph.D. ...more
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“In the end, though, science is what matters; scientists not a bit.” 2 likes
“On the other hand, the sun of Naples might be conducive to learning something about the biochemistry of the embryonic development of marine animals.” 1 likes
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