JAMES D. WATSON (1928 -) and FRANCIS H. C. CRICK (1916 - 2004). Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids. A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. (Nature, 1953, 171, 737-738.) WITH:
MAURICE H. F. WILKINS (1916 - 2004), ALEXANDER R. STOKES (1919 - 2003), and HERBERT R. WILSON (1929 -). Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids. (Nature, 1953, 171, 738-740.) AND WITH:
ROSALIND E. FRANKLIN (1920 - 1958) and RAYMOND G. GOSLING (1926 -). Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate. (Nature, 1953, 171, 740-741.)
James Watson, a biologist from Indiana University, and Francis Crick, a physicist working toward his Ph.D. degree, were collaborators at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. Maurice Wilkins, a New Zealand physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project, was the deputy director of the King's College biophysics lab, and his X-ray diffraction work in 1951 had led him to wonder whether DNA might be a helix. Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist who arrived at the King's College biophysics lab in 1951 to work on the DNA project. Franklin found that DNA X-ray patterns came in two forms: a "wet form" and a "dry form". Her most famous photograph of the wet form showed a cross-shaped pattern of diffraction bands radiating from the center, strongly suggesting a helical structure.
Watson and Crick pursued model building, using balls and sticks. Their first model was a triple helix with the bases pointed outward. However, chemically it wouldn't hold itself together, thus they knew it was incorrect. In February 1953, Wilkins showed Watson a copy of Franklin's photo of the wet form of DNA. Partly stimulated by this information, Watson and Crick quickly deduced that the structure of DNA was a two-chain helix, with antiparallel properties and the bases facing inward and paired to hold the molecule together. Their model was published in the April 25, 1953 issue of Nature, along with the X-ray diffraction results from Wilkins and Franklin. Watson and Crick felt that their helical model with paired bases held the secret of life, and in their paper they wrote one of the most notable understatements in the history of science: "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing that we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."