Capsule

In the footsteps of Watson and Crick

At the double helix’s half-century, four Yale professors share memories of molecular biology’s early days.

When hundreds of scientists gathered in England in April to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the structure of DNA, among them were four Yale faculty members who trained as postdocs in the late 1960s at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology. The lab was originally a division of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where Francis H.C. Crick, Ph.D., and James D. Watson, Ph.D., discerned the double helix.While the four were at the MRC lab—about a decade and a half after Watson, Crick and their collaborators had outlined their model of DNA in the pages of Nature—molecular biology was viewed as anything but a growth industry. Everyone in the field knew everyone else, few labs were...

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