April 25th is National DNA Day in the U.S., an occasion that commemorates discovery of DNA’s structure by Watson and Crick (published in Nature on April 25th, 1953) and the completion of the Human Genome Project fifty years later in April 2003. NHGRI has set up a web site for DNA day featuring a welcome video from Francis Collins and a live chatroom where anyone can chat with “leading researchers in the field of genetics.” Strangely I haven’t yet gotten the call.
The WashU Genome Center outreach office is also sponsoring a number of activities. A number of DNA Day Ambassadors are visiting local high schools in St. Louis. A symposium on the medical campus will have student poster sessions and a seminar, “The Human Genome Sequence: A Foundation for Biological Inquiry”, given by our co-director Elaine Mardis.
By chance I happened to Google the King and Wilson 1975 paper the other day, and came across a very interesting site of Landmarks in the History of Genetics. While not up-to-date, it’s a nice story of key events in DNA’s history (and their implications) since 1745. Of course there’s Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, and Mendel’s Experiments in Plant Hybridisation just six years later. I recognize the name of Erwin Chargaff, whose insights (1950) into the relative incidence of A, C, G, and T nucleotides was not random, but perhaps a kind of code. Two years later came the Hershey and Chase experiments, which showed that viruses infect host cells by injecting their DNA, while the proteins generally remain outside the cell. Of course we know Watson and Crick (1953), as well as King and Wilson (1975). How about Barbara McClintock, whose discovery of transposable elements in maize in the 1940′s was not fully recognized for decades?
That rather sounds like Mendel, doesn’t it? I wonder, how many other important discoveries in biology have already been made, but not yet appreciated. It’s something to think about. Happy DNA Day everyone!