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A Most Important Discovery (1953) (lettersofnote.com)
45 points by herendin2 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments



pg's Cities and Ambition talks about the importance of being around smart people. http://www.paulgraham.com/cities.html The right type of ambition attracts the right kind of people who do the right kind of work that creates the right kind of success that breeds the right type of ambition... And soon you are surrounded by other people who really like Factor.io and would happily discuss George Dyson's Turing's Cathedral.

Complex thoughts need grit-y minds to unfold in. They need to be attacked from multiple perspectives. They need to be nurtured at the point where we're most likely to let go. They need to be played with. And they need different mind spaces to be understood inside and out. Good cities like Cambridge help these ideas to unfold through Brownian motion. Minds drift towards each other. They meet one another and form conspiracies with one another.

Franklin noticed a conflict in her data. There were two kinds of DNA that she had discovered along with her partners; what they called "A" and "B". One was a strand without water that was crumpled together. The second was with moisture that was long and thin. Franklin chose to study type-A and her work led her to suspect a helix was present but she was reluctant to commit to the idea as she was sceptical of any model. Through sheer happenstance, Crick and Watson knew her colleague and were working on a theoretical model for the same, eventually leading them all to use this data to - in a haphazard, chaotic way - lead to an understanding of DNA.

Someone might have discovered DNA sooner or later but if everyone hadn't been present in Cambridge at that moment in history; it would have definitely been later.

Greatness needs serendipity. And serendipity needs the machinations of probability. And probability needs humans to drive the gears.


Perhaps the thing that is interesting me most about this is that, till date, we are learning the exact same thing about DNA, its structure, composition and other aspects just as described in this letter, which can be said to be one of the first communications of the discovery. There has been no change or alteration in the explanation, theory or even the nominclature. This might be a trivial observation, but nonetheless compelling for me.


I highly recommend "The Gene" by Siddhartha Mukherjee https://www.amazon.com/Gene-Intimate-History-Siddhartha-Mukh...


Why was Rosalind Franklin not awarded the Nobel Prize?


Per the Wikipedia page about her [1], the two Nobel prizes that would have made sense for her to be awarded were both granted after her death — one in 1962 and another in 1982. The Nobel isn’t awarded posthumously.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Franklin


And the NP is never shared by more than three individuals, so the one in 1962 probably wouldn't have been awarded to her even had she been alive. But the one in 1982 probably would have been hers to share if she had lived.





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