DNA DAY: Flashback to 1953

James D. Watson presenting the double helix at the 1953 CSH Symposium

Above is James D. Watson, looking rather disheveled in an untucked shirt and shorts, presenting the structure of DNA publicly for the very first time. This historic event took place in June of 1953 in the Bush Auditorium at the Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor. It was just three months earlier that Watson and Crick finally, after a series of missteps, assembled their famous model. During this time Watson was in close contact with members of the CSH community, especially Max Delbrück and Milislav Demerec, who was then director of the Biological Laboratory.

As noted on our CSHL Symposia Digital Collection, the 1953 Symposium "achieved its mythic quality because of a last minute addition to the program." At the time Delbrück remarked, "The discovery of a structure for DNA proposed by Watson and Crick a few months ago, and the obvious suggestions arising from this structure concerning replication seemed of such relevance to many of the questions to be discussed at this meeting..." that the work had to be included. Below is the letter that Demerec sent to Watson requesting his participation in the Symposium. The letter was sent just 2 days after the publication of Watson and Crick's famous Nature article, "Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid."

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National DNA Day is observed annually in April to celebrate both the discovery of the double helix and completion of the Human Genome Project.

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