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Editorial Reviews

For most people, the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA is the kind of ninth grade science fact you forgot as soon as the final was over. But the real story behind the breakthrough is a lot more interesting than trying to remember which of the bases pair up – and in The Double Helix, DNA-discoverer James D. Watson shares his memories of the find that earned him and his research partner, Francis Crick, a Nobel Prize.
The book, narrated almost entirely by Grover Gardner, traces the team's work on DNA at the Cavendish Laboratory in England in 1953, when Watson was in his early 20s. He and Crick raced frantically against other researchers – most notably Linus Pauling – in an effort to illuminate the structure of DNA, and thereby shed light on the genetics of all life. Watson doesn't shy away from using scientific terms, but Gardner's straightforward reading makes even the most complicated experiments easy to follow. And while the book's original release inspired controversy from scientists who didn't agree with Watson's version of events, Gardner gives Watson's voice all the excitement, passion, and dedication you'd expect from a young scientist on the verge of one of the world's greatest discoveries.
Roger Clark lends his elegant tenor to the book's afterward, written by Sir Lawrence Bragg --the youngest Nobel winner in history - who offers a scientist's take on Watson's memories. Bragg points out that The Double Helix is a record of "impressions, not facts" but he gets to the heart of what makes this memoir so appealing when he reminds us that few scientific books are as fresh and direct as Watson's – which is something your ninth grade science teacher would no doubt agree with. —Blythe Copeland
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Publisher's Summary

By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only 24, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science's greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions, and bitter rivalries.
With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his and Crick's desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences: the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work.
©1968, 1996 James D. Watson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"A fascinating case history...Describes the events that led up to one of the great biological discoveries of our time." ( The New York Times Book Review)
"The history of a scientific endeavor, a true detective story that leaves the reader breathless from beginning to end." ( Scientific American)
"Watson's chronicle gives readers an idea of what living science is like, warts and all. The Double Helix is a startling window into the scientific method, full of insight and wit, and packed with the kind of science anecdotes that are told and retold in the halls of universities and laboratories everywhere. It's the stuff of legends." (Amazon.com review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By A. Lai on 03-04-12

Fabulous book!

I have always been fascinated by the story of the discovery of DNA, but this book far exceeded my expectations. Although I am not a scienctist, this book presented the key scientific aspects of the research in a way that I easily understood them. More importantly, though, I enjoyed hearing about the various personalities that were involved in one way or another with the scientists. The narration was outstanding! It was a perfect match to the subject matter. I am so grateful that Watson wrote this book. It's a great contribution to science and the world.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David on 11-08-12

Humorous account of the double helix discovery

I was a biochem major in college and loved genetics so I thought this would be a nice history lesson, which it was. It was also a very good story, with very funny stories and comments by the younger member of the team to discover the double helix structure of DNA. It details the rivalries, trials and frustrations over a 2 year period and is well worth the 4 hour listen. Enjoy!!!

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By K. Rumph on 10-06-17

Brisk and interesting

Interesting as much for its depiction of the scientific life and culture of the times, as for the multi faceted nature of scientific discovery. You don’t really need to understand the science as long as the words molecule or helix aren’t baffling.

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5 out of 5 stars
By Emma on 12-01-15

This is truly science :)

What made the experience of listening to The Double Helix the most enjoyable?

This is such a funny, honest (or too modest) recollection of how a major scientific achievement was conceived in the early 50s. It is a rare glimpse into the real world of scientific struggle. For once with the most happy ending :)

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes! And being quite a short book, I almost managed :) I normally listen during my commute (2 hrs per day), but didn't want to turn this off so kept making up tasks at work where I could listen and still work :)

Any additional comments?

Not sure how this would hold up for someone without a research background themselves. The facts are probably well enough explained to understand without a degree in chemistry/biology. But do have a listen and see if it enchants you anyway! If nothing else, you will have a quite good idea of what personalities exists in academic research (independent of research topic I would imagine) and how the everyday struggles of science and then the realisation you are onto something cool impact the researcher's life.

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