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Episode 1 : The Secret of LifeEpisode 1 : The Secret of Life

Maurice Wilkins The discovery of the double helix structure of DNA is to science what the Mona Lisa is to painting. It's been called the single biggest discovery of all time. But it wasn't just stumbled upon -- it was a race.
Specifically, it was a race between two teams of young scientists working in Britain, as well as the esteemed chemist Linus Pauling, based in California. Already a Nobel laureate, Pauling may have been the favorite, but the discovery would ultimately be made by his British counterparts. Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins were trying to identify the structure by studying X-ray diffractions of the DNA molecule. But Jim Watson and Francis Crick studied a little bit of everything -- including, to the consternation of some, the work of their competitors. A few have gone so far as to accuse Watson of stealing Franklin's X-ray work.

In any case, Waston and Crick's inquisitive working style ultimately allowed them to determine the DNA structure first, in 1953 -- an achievement that led to their Nobel Prize in 1962. Meanwhile, Franklin passed away in 1958 from cancer.

Produced/directed by David Glover and edited by Joe Bini.

Learn More the science that led to DNA in the Special Report.
X-rays Linus Pauling
Photos: Maurice Wilkins (top), who worked with Rosalind Franklin, searching for the DNA structure by means of X-ray crystallography. Examples of Rosalind Franklin's X-rays (bottom left). Linus Pauling (bottom right), who was also searching for the DNA structure.
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