65 years ago two Cambridge scientists looked at their watches and realized they could just make it to the Eagle pub in Cambridge before closing time. They had just cracked one of science’s great problems, and for their friends they drew in beer on the pub table the double helix shape they had understood to depict the structure of the DNA molecule. On 25th April, 1953, 65 years ago today, their paper appeared in Nature magazine, and the world changed.
Their discovery has formed the basis of much medical and biological science since that time, and illustrates yet again Popper’s insight that the future is inherently unpredictable because we cannot predict what discoveries will be made, or what their significance will be. Those who tell us that history is unfolding toward its inevitable destiny cannot deal with that fact or handle its
Crick and Watson’s discovery has enabled us to reach into the very structure of life itself and to tinker with it in ways previously thought inconceivable. It is a timely reminder among many that the “ultimate resource” is human ingenuity and creativity. Julian Simon wrote a book under that title.
There are those, many of them, who love to wallow in the problems facing humanity, and to write tomes of despair about the bleak future that we face. And there are those like Crick and Watson who push humanity’s envelope further out and who make possible what was impossible before.
Happy birthday, DNA, and congratulations to all those who work to give us an unlimited future in which, instead of limiting our aspirations, we fulfill them.