Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review of The Double Helix

I just read The Double Helix by James Watson.  Its Watson's story of how he and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA.  In the 60's when the book was written, it was a surprising revelation of how science really works.  Less of a surprise today, but the story was interesting.

Its hard to discard the image of the scientist as disembodied mind engaging in pure, logical, mathematical thought.    But Crick and Watson engaged in a wide spectrum of activities which contributed to their breakthrough:  wild and cocky and annoying theorizing, endless conversations with each other and with colleagues in different locations, digging and re-digging into academic books and papers, mathematical analysis, and physical tinker-toy-like model building.  We don't associate many of the above items with science.

We also think of the scientist lone thinker, but Crick and Watson were successful because their different personalities, styles, and capabilities created a synergy that made them as a team more than the sum of their individual selves.

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