He being James Watson. Yes. The same one. Precocious American with the messy hair who built the double helix model of DNA. The model that rocked our world - the one he says looked "So pretty it had to be correct"
Rosalind Franklin was the feminist he was dismissing. I don't know. Does the fact that you are an intelligent woman with opinions of your own, and the tendency to disagree with men's opinions on the basis of facts, make you a feminist? If so, yes, she was.
I read this book (so late!), and I swear it was like reading a racy thriller of a novel. Although, yesterday in the morning, my husband said that he indulged in a marathon viewing of some show on his ipad, and slept late. I said "be like me, so disciplined, they were so close to discovering the double helix structure, the metal plates to make the adenine, thymine etc. models were in the shop, but I still closed the book and fell asleep..."
It was just as well. I get emotional about this stuff. So Watson & Crick built the model and everyone was happy with it, and per Watson, everyone was surprisingly encouraging, even all the folks they were 'competing' with - Linus Pauling for one; and I cried.
Watson says this of an organist chemist in this lab - Jerry - that he wasn't one to shoot his mouth off unless he knew for certain that he was right. Jerry pointed out some stuff in textbooks that were wrong. And this helped Watson slide in one more piece of the puzzle correctly.
What I feel is a lack of tightness in the writing is more than made up by the passion (for life first!) and youth that is evident in it. Of course they did win the nobel prize and that unavoidably biases me, but seriously, it was the best read in recent times.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding this book - for a plethora of reasons. The most glaring one seems to be the dismissive references to Franklin - her appearance, dressing sense, attitude towards colleagues, among other things. Yes, thats annoying, but truthfully how they all felt about women scientists!
The number of women on my own campus has been steadily increasing over the years. We are running out of space. I am in meetings where we sit around and discuss what to do about this. I get unreasonably upset if I sense that there is a tinge of regret in peoples voices. Some day we may reach equality; and I don't mean just in terms of numbers... I will dance on the streets then.
So Watson's feelings are not entirely in our past, so it was good to see it there, in black and white. Directed towards no less a person than the one that took the very famous X-ray crystallographic image of the DNA. To his credit, Watson comes across as being in awe of her abilities with the images and their interpretation...
So many people pass through the pages of this personal account. Franklin, who clearly missed the prize, and all the credit for the structure of the DNA, by a whisker. Pauling. Bragg. Wilkins. Crick & Watson themselves.
Any time I read accounts of lives of scientists, I think 'I want to be that guy (or girl)'. The guy I want to be is Jerry. The organic chemist. Work hard, keep my mouth shut unless required (Fat chance!). And incidentally, by certain definitions, I am a feminist, and here in my lab, Dr. Franklin would be very welcome, any day....