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Old 19 December 2007, 02:02 AM
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Icon24 DNA's double helix discovered while on LSD

Comment: I had a
conversation recently with a friend who is a mircobiologist. He mentioned
that one of the origional discoverers of the double helix DNA model we
know today was discovered while the scientist, Francis Crick , was high on
LSD. I have found a few articles detailing the story but I question the
valididy of said documents.
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Old 19 December 2007, 02:46 AM
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Google isn't turning up much. Lots of lesser sites, but I've yet to find anything definitive, say a transcript of a lecture or personal writings.
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Old 19 December 2007, 04:31 AM
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It doesn't necessarily disprove this UL, but whoever made this comment could be confusing their stories - the man who essentially invented polymerase chain reaction (a hugely important technique for copying fragments of DNA), Kary Mullis, claimed that his conception of the technique was inspired by LSD. It's a pretty big deal - maybe not as celebrated as the development of the double helix model, but one of the most important techniques in modern biology, and he won the Nobel Prize for it also.

Obviously I can't be sure, but I'm guessing this is just a mixup of the two stories.
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Old 21 December 2007, 10:28 PM
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But wasn't it Rosalind Franklin who discovered the double helix?
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Old 22 December 2007, 02:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marc137 View Post
But wasn't it Rosalind Franklin who discovered the double helix?
It's really up for debate. Watson and Crick came up with a potential model, but it had a crucial flaw- nowhere near enough water. Franklin pointed out that fact when they presented it for review.
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Old 22 December 2007, 03:10 AM
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I can't see things that tiny without LSD in my system... He's my hero!
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Old 22 December 2007, 03:20 AM
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The rumor is about Crick (of Watson and Crick). Google "Francis Crick LSD" and you get all sorts of hits, like this article.

Quote:
Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.
The same article says that Crick himself did not admit to it, though.
Quote:
Shortly afterwards I visited Crick at his home, Golden Helix, in Cambridge.

He listened with rapt, amused attention to what I told him about the role of LSD in his Nobel Prize-winning discovery. He gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said: 'Print a word of it and I'll sue.'
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Old 22 December 2007, 07:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Casey View Post
It's really up for debate. Watson and Crick came up with a potential model, but it had a crucial flaw- nowhere near enough water. Franklin pointed out that fact when they presented it for review.
From what I recall from John Watson's book, "The Double Helix", Franklin (also) was responsible for showing that the "backbone" was on the outside of the molecule, Crick showed how the x-ray crystallography proved the molecule was helical, and Watson solved the riddle of how the base pairs fit together.
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Old 22 December 2007, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
I have found a few articles detailing the story but I question the valididy of said documents.
I looked at more of those sites, and the vast majority of them are quoting the same article I cited by Alun Rees. I can't seem to find much information on him personally, but he has written other articles for the Hawaii International Conference on Education (on "An Investigation into the relationship between entry and exit qualifications in Biomedical Science Honours degrees...") and for New Scientist ("Morphology of theses..."). On the first article his email is provided, so he could probably be contacted.
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Old 13 January 2008, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marc137 View Post
But wasn't it Rosalind Franklin who discovered the double helix?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Casey View Post
It's really up for debate. Watson and Crick came up with a potential model, but it had a crucial flaw- nowhere near enough water. Franklin pointed out that fact when they presented it for review.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bufungla View Post
From what I recall from John Watson's book, "The Double Helix", Franklin (also) was responsible for showing that the "backbone" was on the outside of the molecule, Crick showed how the x-ray crystallography proved the molecule was helical, and Watson solved the riddle of how the base pairs fit together.
Having just written an essay about this...

James Watson and Francis Crick were part of a team working on the structure of DNA at Cambridge; Rosalind Franklin was part of another team, with Maurice Wilkins, working on it at King's College London. Franklin and Wilkins were the official team - Crick and Watson were breaking an agreement between the two labs that King's would have the first crack at it. Anyway, Crick and Watson worked by building models of structures they dreamt up, and seeing if the data from examining DNA fit with their model. Franklin and Wilkins worked by gathering data, specifically X-ray diffraction photographs, and then trying to build models from them. Crick and Watson built a number of models, a few of which had problems which were pointed out by Franklin (too much water, backbone on the inside). Franklin gathered a lot of crucial data, but didn't put together the correct model; eventually, Watson saw an excellent X-ray photograph which she had taken, and it inspired him and Crick to put all the details together to come up with the correct structure. Crick has said that if they hadn't got it, Franklin would soon have come up with the right model.

In none of the (many) books I've read about it, was there any suggestion that Crick took LSD to help him think. That doesn't disprove it, but some of the meoirs were pretty acrimonious, and I'd think that some of the players would grap at anything they could to discredit each other.
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