Genes, girls, and Gamow: after The double helix
"The chase for the double-helical structure of DNA was an adventure story in the best sense. First, there was a pot of scientific gold to be foundpossibly very soon. Second, among the explorers who raced to find it, there was much bravado, unexpected lapses of reason, and painful acceptances of the fates not going well. The early 1950s were not times to be cautious but rather to run fast whenever a path opened upnuggets of gold might be lying exposed over the next hill. As one of the winners with a fortune much, much bigger than I ever dared hope for, I could not stop moving. There was more genetic loot to be located, and not joining in the further hunt would make me feel old." from the preface Immediately following the revolutionary discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the world of molecular biology was caught up in a gold rush. The goal: to uncover the secrets of life the newly elucidated molecule promised to reveal. Genes, Girls, and Gamow is James Watson's report on the amazing aftermath of the DNA breakthrough, picking up where his now-classic memoir The Double Helix leaves off. Here are the collaborations and collisions of giants, not only Watson and Crick themselves, but also legions of others, including Linus Pauling (the greatest chemist of the day), Richard Feynman (the bongo-playing cynosure of Caltech), and especially George Gamow, the bearlike, whiskey-wielding Russian physicist, who had turned his formidable intellect to the field of genetics; with Gamowan irrepressible prankster to bootWatson would found the legendary RNA-Tie Club. But Watsonat twenty-five already the winner of genetic research's greatest jackpotis obsessed with another goal as well: to find love, and a wife equal to his unexpected fame. As he and an international cast of roguish young colleagues do important research they also compare notes and share complaints on the scarcity of eligible mates. And amid the feverish search for the role of the still mysterious RNA molecule, Watson's thoughts are seldom far from the supreme object of his affections, an enthralling Swarthmore coed named Christa, the daughter of the celebrated Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr. Part scientific apprenticeship, part sentimental education, Genes, Girls, and Gamow is a penetrating revelation of how great science is accomplished. It is also a charmingly candid account of one young man's full range of ambitions.