On this day in 1953, a pair of men walked into the Eagle Pub in Cambridge, England, and one of them declared he and his compatriot had “discovered the secret of life.” Certainly not the first time an outlandish boast has been the subject of barroom conversation, but these guys had the goods to back it up. Their names were James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick, and they had just made a discovery science had been chasing for some time time: they’d determined the structure of DNA.
DNA had actually been discovered back in 1869, but nearly a century later scientists were still speculating about its structure and how it worked. On February 28, 1953, Watson and Crick cracked the case, and DNA’s unmistakable double-helix structure was revealed: “a spiral of two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, wound around each other.” Their discovery also revealed how genetic instructions were carried from one generation to the next, with the DNA splitting into two individual strands, each of which then became a new double helix.
The pair officially announced their discovery in the April 1953 issue of Nature magazine. The story about the pub was told in Watson’s best-selling 1968 book The Double Helix. One question I’d still like answered: did anybody buy them a round?
Helix (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Level X”
Secrets come to the light and unlikely alliances are established; at the same time, Alan and Walker take on a dangerous mission to destroy what’s left of the NARVIK virus.