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The Double Helix

This is not to say that the lay reader will understand everything there is to understand about DNA by the time he or she finishes the book. Neither is it to say that the characters included in the book are not unique and brilliant people, for they certainly are. However, what Watson has done is make these people accessible to the reader both as human beings and as scientists. He also allows us to see that science is not always marked by the kind of rational order and organization which the lay person might too often imagine:

Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward and logical manner imagined by outsiders. Instead, its steps forward (and sometimes backward) are often very human events in which personalities and cultural traditions play major roles (ix).

What turns this story into such a dramatic and suspenseful account is the author's decision to present it without the perspective of hindsight. That is, he could have neatly but drily recounted the events knowing what he knew after they had all taken place. Instead, he tells the story of this discovery as he and his colleagues were moving through the process itself, allowing the reader to enjoy the thrills of the breakthroughs as they occur. This approach humanizes the scientists, showing their flaws and errors, and demystifies science, at least to some degree, by showing the roles which non-rational or irrational factors play in the scientific process and even in such remarkable di


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The Double Helix. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:41, October 23, 2014, from
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