During our recent family trip to London, I managed a stealth visit to the Science Museum, located just behind the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. I had heard that the Science Museum housed the original model that molecular biologists, James Watson and Francis Crick, created in 1953 to depict the structure of DNA. The. Original.
So while the rest of my family explored the Natural History Museum, I dashed over (both museums are free admission – what a concept). I spotted a helpful looking museum guide and breathlessly asked him where I might find the Watson/Crick model. He broke into a big smile and delightedly offered to walk me to it (he must not get the request very often). Sure enough – there it was – in a glass case. Humbly displayed with other 19th and 20th century innovations.
I was struck by two things when looking at this remarkable piece of science history. First, how BIG it was. This was no small-scale, desk-top model – they were really trying to make a statement with this thing. Second, that it was made up of odd sorts of materials – clamps and wire and shapes cut of of sheet metal. It was as if they just looked around the lab to see what they had on hand and said, “right! let’s use this!” I loved it. Have a look: