THE BEST-SELLING The Double Helix, published 20 years ago, describes the events that had led to the discovery by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953 of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the building block of genes and heredity.
At the time, the 25-year-old Watson was widely perceived as arrogant, brash, gawky, and intense. Subsequent events did little to change that impression. In 1962, he and Crick won the Nobel Prize and were famous. The publication of The Double Helix 7 years later made Watson and Crick household names, forever linked in the public psyche. Watson's portrayal of his former colleagues, including Crick, as buffoons and eccentrics provoked an outcry, but he—and most critics—counted the book as a major contribution to popular science writing because it described how science is done: not by selfless idealists, but by ambitious, competitive human beings.
Today, at age 61, James Dewey Watson is