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DNA and the Eagle

Updated: Jan 29, 2018

Written by Lakshini Mendis |

“At lunch Francis [Crick] winged into the Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the secret of life.” – in the Double Helix (1998) by James Watson

The Eagle Pub, in Cambridge, England, which was a popular watering hole for RAF pilots, was also a favourite haunt for scientists at the nearby Cavendish lab.

Although there are varying accounts of what Francis Crick actually yelled when he got there, there is no dispute that the patrons enjoying their lunch at the Eagle, on the afternoon of February 28, 1953, got to share in Crick and Watson's joy at discovering “the secret of life" - a pivotal moment in science!

DNA, which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the molecular genetic code of organisms. It is present in each cell and dictates the production proteins, which governs everything from natural hair colour to the production of growth hormones. You can learn more about DNA here.

Crick and Watson are credited with being the first to correctly identify the double helix model of the DNA molecule. Their original paper is on display at the Eagle.

Long omitted from the narrative, the pub also honours Rosalind Franklin, whose PhD student, Raymond Gosling, took an X-ray diffraction image (labeled "Photo 51") that played a critical role in deciphering the structure of DNA. Find out about other sites linked to Rosalind Franklin here.

The pub continues to celebrate this special moment in science by serving a special ale called DNA. Make sure you stop by the Eagle for a pint if you ever find yourself in Cambridge!

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