DNA. The double helix; the blueprint of life; and, during the early 1950s, a baffling enigma that could win a Nobel Prize. Everyone knows that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix. In fact, they clicked into place the last piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle that other researchers had assembled over decades. Researchers like Maurice Wilkins (the ‘Third Man of DNA’) and Rosalind Franklin, famously demonised by Watson. Not forgetting the ‘lost heroes’ who fought to prove that DNA is the stuff of genes, only to be airbrushed out of history. In Unravelling the Double Helix, Professor Gareth Williams sets the
record straight. He tells the story of DNA in the round, from its discovery in pus-soaked bandages in 1868 to the aftermath of Watson’s best-seller The Double Helix a century later.
You don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy this book. It’s a page-turner that unfolds like a detective story, with suspense, false leads and treachery, and a fabulous cast of noble heroes and back-stabbing villains. But beware: some of the science is dreadful, and the heroes and villains may not be the ones you expect. Gareth Williams is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Medicine at the University of Bristol.