Judging DNA

Courtesy of National Library of Medicine Marshall W. Nirenberg, laboratory chief of biochemical genetics at the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, received a Nobel Prize in 1968 for helping to interpret the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. Q: How did the discovery of the double-helix structure relate to the cracking of the genetic code? A: George Gamow, the physicist, told me he went down his driveway to pick up the mail one day and

Brendan Maher
Jan 12, 2003
Courtesy of National Library of Medicine

Marshall W. Nirenberg, laboratory chief of biochemical genetics at the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, received a Nobel Prize in 1968 for helping to interpret the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.

Q: How did the discovery of the double-helix structure relate to the cracking of the genetic code?
A: George Gamow, the physicist, told me he went down his driveway to pick up the mail one day and found this issue of Nature that had Watson and Crick's article in it. He opened it right at the mailbox. And immediately he thought of a code, of a genetic code based on the sequence of deoxynucleotides in DNA.

Q: Without the double helix, would it be difficult to crack the code?
A: At that time--when I first started, I didn't know--I thought that amino acids were encoded...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?