Sixty years and one day ago, on February 28th, 1953, two young scientists named James Watson and Francis Crick left their Cambridge University laboratory, walked through the doors of the The Eagle pub, and declared to its patrons that they had uncovered the “secret of life”. I would call them dramatic, but in many ways…they had.
Since 1869, researchers had been racing to uncover the structure and purpose of a puzzling molecule found inside every single cell of every living thing. Today we know more about this terrifyingly complex and dazzlingly microscopic strand of molecules than ever before. But there was a time not too long ago when the exact structure of DNA, this “blueprint” for developing any and all living things, was entirely unknown.
Enter our pubgoing scientists Crick and Watson. Using laboratory clamps and pieces of metal, they constructed a 3D model of this complex hereditary material with two complementary strands wound in a ladder-like fashion. This formed a double helix. Presenting it this way showed the molecule was able to “unzip” itself and carry genetic information. The specifics are heady, but plainly put: this explained everything. Watson, Crick, and their colleague Maurice Wilkins went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1962 for their discoveries.
To this day, Watson and Crick’s work is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century. A plaque remains outside the Eagle pub marking it the site at which Crick and Watson first delcared their “secret of life”.
Write something in response to the phrase “the secret of life.” You might render a scene in which a character declares that they have uncovered “the secret of life”. You could show us a character who actually knows the secret of life. Or you might title your piece “the secret of life.” Or anything else this blog post makes you think of.