28 Feb: The Double Helix Quartet

Deciphering the structure of DNA was as complex as the double helix itself. On 28th February, 1953, Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick rushed to the pub and announced to their fellow drinkers in The Eagle, Cambridge that they had just found “the secret of life”. 

But their work would not have been possible without the uncredited contribution of Dr. Rosalind Franklin – whose photographs of the X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA were the first to reveal its three-dimensional structure. And it was her colleague, Dr Maurice Wilkins, who first brought Franklin’s work to the attention of Watson and Crick.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how it came to be that Crick’s wife, Odile; drew the iconic depiction of the structure published in Nature; explain why *technically* Dr Franklin didn’t even have a degree; and recall how James Watson’s legacy was tainted by his bitter and snide memoir, ‘The Double Helix’… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Double-Helix Structure of DNA’ (ThoughtCo, 2020): https://www.thoughtco.com/double-helix-373302

• ‘The Geek Atlas – 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive, By John Graham-Cumming’ (O’Reilly Media, 2009):


• ‘Rosalind Franklin: DNA’s unsung hero – Cláudio L. Guerra’ (Ted-Ed, 2016):

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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Sophie King.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2023.