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DNA - Essay Example

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Your Name Date Course DNA: The Basis of Life The question of “What is life, and what is it made of” has been asked to the point of making it cliche, if not ubiquitous, yet a multitude of answers persist. Life could be defined as a potential, as a response to external stimuli, or even as an indefinable feeling, yet none of these answers attempts to solve the question of what actually drives the biological engine of our bodies that keeps us breathing, pumping blood, and absorbing food…
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Download file to see previous pages - Genetics Home Reference). So what is this holy grail of biological molecules? This review will attempt to answer that question by covering the history of the discovery of the molecule, and its general structure and function. Because of its extraordinary properties, DNA forms the basis of life and of our bodies as we know them. The history of the discovery of DNA has the drama of a spy novel and an importance greater than nearly any scientific revelation before or after its discovery, yet credit for its discovery is mostly given to two major contributors. The real discovery of the field of genetics occurred in a small monastery where Austrian monk Gregor Mendel worked with his pea plants (Gregor Mendel). Mendel observed that some plants produced strange, abnormal features whereas other plants grew typically. Mendel took abnormal plants and crossed them with normal plants to observe the progeny. If the daughter plants from the two parents showed traces of the abnormality from one of the parents, Mendel could attribute the abnormality to something inherited between generations of plants. If, on the other hand, the plant did not show any traces of abnormality, Mendel could assume the environment caused the atypical features of the plant. Obviously, the daughters of the crossed plants showed traces of abnormality, and the field of genetics was started (Gregor Mendel), yet despite the brilliant work being done by Mendel, it would still be almost a century later until DNA was discovered. Years later when Watson and Crick decided to attempt to solve the great scientific puzzle of their era, several key facts still needed to be solved in order to develop a complete model of DNA, mainly, was it a double or triple helix and were base pairs pared on the inside or outside of the backbone (Fredholm)? In 1951, Watson and Crick thought they had the puzzle solved. They had completed a model of a triple helical model with base pairs extending out from a central phosphate backbone, a model very similar to one proposed by scientific legend Linus Pauling, yet this model was incorrect. At the same time, Rosalind Franklin was producing high quality x-ray crystallography pictures of DNA for Maurice Wilkins; pictures scientist JD Bernal called “the most beautiful X-Ray photographs of any substance ever taken.” (Rosalind Elsie Franklin: Pioneer Molecular Biologist) These pictures showed the actual structure of DNA, but required expertise in the interpretation of such pictures to be able to understand them. The pieces of the drama were in place; to solve the puzzle, Watson and Crick needed scientific evidence to support and complement their ball-and-stick modeling method, yet only one scientist had what they needed: Rosalind Franklin (Fredholm). Then, in a regretful moment, Franklin’s partner Wilkins showed Watson one of her DNA X-Ray pictures, the pieces snapped into place for Watson, and he and Crick would go on to publish the groundbreaking article revealing the structure of DNA, with Franklin’s and Wilkins’s work being listed as supporting works. The saddest part of the whole story is Franklin’s early death. Rosalind Franklin died in 1958, four years before Watson, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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