Unlocking the secrets of life.

Some events strike us as significant as they happen. We immediately know that it's a date to remember. Others creep up on us, sliding in somewhere below our consciousness and sort of languishing sleepily around until one day we realize that way back then we were in the presence of something momentous. The publication of a paper by James Watson and Francis Crick entitled A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid in the prestigious Nature magazine on this day in 1953 probably lays somewhere in between those two poles. It certainly wasn't a sleeper - the world quickly noticed (with the aid of a good deal of self-publicizing) that here was something of great scientific importance. On the other hand, the paper was one page long, one paper among many others. (Actually, it was followed by two other short papers that were also of great importance to the understanding of the structure of DNA, one by Wilkins, Stokes and Wilson, the other by Franklin and Gosling. They're all available here.) And as is often the case, the date may not really matter. Watson had already stated publicly, two months earlier, that he and Crick had "discovered the secret of life" (in a pub, no less), so having a paper published in Nature may not have made that much difference. But it does give us a very specific date to latch onto.

Go to: Digital vs. Physical.