A bond that nothing on earth can ever break or diminish.
How much is a letter worth?
What Is DNA?
DNA stands for a very long word that most people can’t remember or pronounce and really don’t care about either. Deoxyribonucleic acid is the long version for the acronym DNA. It is a molecule that has all the genetic instructions for the functioning of all known living organisms. I think it is mind boggling that DNA is in EVERY living thing. Although it is the “same” kind of coding, it is “different” for everything.
Who Discovered DNA?
On April 25, 1953, an Englishman named Francis Crick and his American colleague, James Watson, published their DNA findings in the journal Nature. It was the first correct double-helix model of DNA and was based on the information that DNA bases were paired and on one picture. The photo was taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, and simply called “Photo 51.”
“The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962 was awarded jointly to Francis Harry Compton Crick, James Dewey Watson and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins ‘for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.’”
Before The DNA Discovery Was Published In Nature
On March 19, 1953, over a month before the DNA discovery was published in the journal, Nature, Crick wrote a letter to his twelve year old son, Michael, who was a student at a British boarding school at the time.
The seven page letter (transcript courtesy Christie’s) is sixty years old and explains how DNA is replicated through a process where the genetic material is passed into a new cell. The letter reads as follows:
19 Portugal Place Cambridge
19 March ’53
My Dear Michael,
Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of de-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. for short. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes — which carry the hereditary factors — are made up of protein and D.N.A.
Our structure is very beautiful. D.N.A. can be thought of roughly as a very long chain with flat bits sticking out. The flat bits are called the “bases”. The formula is rather
Now we have two of these chains winding round each other — each one is a helix — and the chain, made up of sugar and phosphorus, is on the outside, and the bases are all on the inside. I can’t draw it very well, but it looks
The model looks much nicer than this.
Now the exciting thing is that while these are 4 different bases, we find we can only put certain pairs of them together. Thee bases have names. They are Adenine, Guanine, Thymine & Cytosine. I will call them A, G, T and C. Now we find that the pairs
we can make — which have one base from one chain joined to one base from another — are
only A with T and G with C.
Now on one chain, as far as we can see, one can have the bases in any order, but if their order is fixed, then the order on the other chain is also fixed. For example, suppose the first chain goes (points to string of letters on left), then the second must go (points to string of letters on right).
It is like a code. If you are given one set of letters you can write down the others.
Now we believe that the D.N.A. is a code. That is, the order of the bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another). You can now see how Nature makes copies of the genes. Because if the two chains unwind into two separate chains, and if each chain then makes another chain come together on it, then because A always goes with T, and G with C, we shall get two copies where
we had one before. For example
In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life. The beauty of our model is that the shape of it is such that only these pairs can go together, though they could pair up in other ways if they were floating about freely. You can understand that we are very excited. We have to have a letter off to Nature in a day or so. Read this carefully so that you understand it. When you come home we will show you the model.
Lots of love, Daddy
So Crick shared his phenomenal discovery with his son and ended the letter, “Lots of love, Daddy.” At the time, no one knew just how big the discovery of DNA would prove to be, but it really is the basics of how “life comes from life” or in other words, the secret of life. Even so, for a twelve year old boy, the comfort and emotional bonding from the words, “Lots of love, Daddy,” can’t be exaggerated. In fact, Michael saved his father’s letter for sixty years, so it apparently meant something to him.
Well, it means a lot to other people too apparently. Michael Crick put the letter up for auction with Christie’s in New York City. On April 10, 2013, an anonymous buyer who made a bid on the phone during the auction at Christie’s, ended up paying the highest amount ever paid for a letter. With the bid and buyer’s premium included, the “secret of life” letter sold for $6,059,750.
Go ahead and read that last sentence again. Your eyes didn’t play tricks on you. That sure was a whole bunch of money!
Crick’s Letter Sold, My Letters Are Kept
Neither of my parents had a career as a molecular biologist, biophysicist, neuroscientist, and they did not discover anything like a DNA molecule. They did, however, fall in love, marry and gave me life. That’s no small thing. Because of their union, I’m alive, my sister was born and we both had daughters of our own.
Although Dad was absent from much of my life and has passed away, I know that he loved me the best he could love me while he lived. Mom has always been in my life and I know she loves me too. So I feel blessed that both my parents were glad I was born and showed/show me love as their daughter.
Over the years, Mom and Dad have written me letters by hand, signed cards with little notes and Mom types me emails too. Needless to say, I have the letters, notes and cards tucked away all over the place in drawers, books, cabinets and my jewelry box. I can immediately recognize the loopy letters of Dad’s writing and the slanted letters of Mom’s writing. Seeing their handwriting comforts me and their words make me feel loved.
Actually, I never feel pretty or all that great of a person (guess I have low self-esteem), but when I remember how Dad used to hug me and tell me how proud he was of me or when Mom has done the same thing while planting a kiss on my cheek, I feel beautiful, cared for and someone special.
Nothing my parents have written me will be put up for auction at Christie’s for millions of dollars, but to me every note is priceless and that’s way more than $6,059,750.