• Climbing Mount Irascible

    If the scientific autobiography belongs to “a most awkward literary genre,” the scientific book review must belong to a decidedly tedious one. And Erwin Chargaff’s review of Watson’s The Double Helix is the exception that proves the rule. In 1968, Gunther Stent (a contemporary of Jim Watson and a fellow member of the Phage Group) wrote a review called What they are saying about Honest Jim in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Vol. 43-2, 1968) (DOI: This piece was what one might call a meta-review – a “review of the reviewers” – where Stent turns over (at times

  • Erwin Chargaff – a life ratioed

    In the short but eventful history of molecular biology, Erwin Chargaff must rank as one of the most interesting and one of the most tragic. I also feel that he is long overdue for – if not a reassessment – than at least a re-appreciation. Chargaff is best known for what are now called the “Chargaff Rules,” the observation that in DNA: 1) A + G = C + T (i.e. the sum of the purines equals the sum of the pyrimidines) 2) the molar ratio of adenine to thymine = 1 3) the molar ratio of guanine