J. Craig Venter's part in the race to sequence the human genome secured him a place in the history books. Last month he showed an appreciation of the value of such scientific history when his nonprofit research center, the Venter Institute, purchased a large collection of original documents relating to the early years of molecular biology.

The collection was put together over a period of two years about five years ago by Jeremy Norman, a rare book dealer from Novato, California, using material bought from scientists by Al Seckel, a cognitive scientist. It contains correspondence, galley proofs, photographs, and laboratory notebooks from scientists such as Sydney Brenner, Francis Crick, Max Delbruck, Rosalind Franklin, Aaron Klug, Linus Pauling, Max Perutz, Maurice Wilkins, and James Watson. "There are maybe 5,000 letters, that's what I'm guessing," says Norman. "There's perhaps 200 scientific notebooks, and who knows how many sheets of manuscript, and reprints...

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