Remembering the race for the secret of life
25 Apr 2013
On 25 April 1953, three seminal papers describing the structure of DNA were published in Nature. Sixty years later, Genome Biology is publishing an in depth interview with one of the two surviving authors of those papers; Raymond Gosling.
As a PhD student at King’s College London, Gosling worked with first Maurice Wilkins and later Rosalind Franklin. He offers unique insights into their characters, and the other players in the famous race for the ‘secret of life’.
It took a series of what Gosling describes as “serendipitous” events to bring about a change in their fortunes; “most of my life has been beset or encouraged by serendipitous acts,” he says. From getting their hands on the best quality DNA available, using paperclips to stretch out the fibres, and a condom to seal the collimator of the camera they were pumping hydrogen into in order to produce clear images, he paints a vivid picture of the laboratories back in the late 1940s.
And on the subject of the photographs they were taking of DNA, Gosling is in no doubt that this was “the most exciting thing that’s happened to me before or since!” He remembers: “standing in the dark room outside this lead-lined room, and looking at the developer, and up through the developer tank swam this beautiful spotted photograph, you are familiar with them now I’m sure. It took 90-something hours to take the photograph, again, pot luck. But it really was the most wonderful thing. And I knew at the time that what I’d just done was to produce a crystalline state in these fibers, and if then the DNA was the gene material, I must be the first person ever to make genes crystallize.”
The article is accompanied by a podcast including an anecdote from the interview, a series of comments from Genome Biology’s editorial board members, and running a Bioinformatics Challenge that will be open to all comers. The DNA Day challenge will consist of a number of steps unfolding over a number of days. On April 25th the final step of the bonus Bioinformatics Challenge will be revealed.
- ENDS -
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Notes to Editors
Raymond Gosling: the man who crystallized genes
Genome Biology 2013, 14:402 doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-4-402
Sixty years of genome biology
W F Doolittle, Peter Fraser, Mark B Gerstein, Brenton R Graveley, Steven Henikoff, Curtis Huttenhower, Alicia Oshlack, Chris P Ponting, John L Rinn, Michael C Schatz, Jernej Ule, Detlef Weigel and George M Weinstock
Genome Biology 2013, 14:113 doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-4-113
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