Are you referring to the strength-of-swallows factor in the history of science?
Also, SD Serendipity strikes again: a few days ago a letter by Crick to his 12-year old son sold for over $6 million, the highest amount ever paid for a letter, almost doubling the previous record which was set by a letter of Abraham Lincoln.
I can’t recall in which early news account I read it, but part of its value is ascribed to the fact that it has a good, illustrated summary of the work–clear as a bell and deeply endearing–set down six months before it was printed.
I’m sure historians–including you guys, of course–will have some yummy grist. The letter is reproduced here. Note that the the transcription does not reproduce the word underlines, shown here in italics.
Here is the complete text:
19 Portugal Place Cambridge
19 March ’53
My Dear Michael,
Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of de-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. for short. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes — which carry the hereditary factors — are made up of protein and D.N.A.
Our structure is very beautiful. D.N.A. can be thought of roughly as a very long chain with flat bits sticking out. The flat bits are called the “bases”. The formula is rather like this
Sugar [line] base
Sugar [line] base
Sugar [line] base
and so on.
Now we have two of these chains winding round each other — each one is a helix — and the chain, made up of sugar and phosphorus, is on the outside, and the bases are all on the inside. I can’t draw it very well, but it looks like this
[drawing we know and love]
The model looks much nicer than this.
Now the exciting thing is that while these are 4 different bases, we find we can only put certain pairs of them together. Thee bases have names. They are Adenine, Guanine, Thymine & Cytosine. I will call them A, G, T and C. Now we find that the pairs we can make — which have one base from one chain joined to one base from another — are
A with T
and G with C
Now on one chain, as far as we can see, one can have the bases in any order, but if their order is fixed, then the order on the other chain is also fixed. For example, suppose the first chain goes [arrow to text column “A T C A G T T” letters on left, each letter followed by dashes to parallel column] must go [text column has dashes from first with T A G T C A A]
It is like a code. If you are given one set of letters you can write down the others.
Now we believe that the D.N.A. is a code. That is, the order of the bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another). You can now see how Nature *makes copies of the genes. *Because if the two chains unwind into two separate chains, and if each chain then makes another chain come together on it, then because A always goes with T, and G with C, we shall get two copies where we had one before.
For example [double column of base pairs]
[Indent centered on columns, [Sugar [line] base
phosphorus arrows to same base pairs, wider column columns]
[two columns by two columns, first column the dashed base pairs, second column their reverse]
In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life. The beauty of our model is that the shape of it is such that only these pairs can go together, though they could pair up in other ways if they were floating about freely. You can understand that we are very excited. We have to have a letter off to Nature in a day or so. Read this carefully so that you understand it. When you come home we will show you the model.
Lots of love,