April 25 - 1953 - James Watson and Francis Crick Describe the Structure of DNA
For about a century after Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, biologists were looking for the solution to precisely how traits are passed on to offspring. With a two column article in the journal Nature entitled, "Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid," Cambridge scientists James Watson and Francis Crick described the structure of DNA, outlining a double helix with a sugar phosphate backbone and linked by specific nucleotide pairs. This structure also showed how DNA could be replicated and passed on to offspring. The work that showed this structure, however, was highly controversial. Key to Watson and Crick's findings was "Photo 51," a microscopic image produced by PhD student Raymond Gosling working under Dr. Rosalind Franklin at King's College London. Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins shared this image with James Watson. Franklin, a woman in a male-dominated field in the 1950s, was ostracized by her colleagues. In 1962, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins would receive the Nobel Prize for their research, something Franklin did not receive because she had passed away from ovarian cancer in 1958.