Francis Crick sketched this diagram of the DNA double-helix molecule in a 1953 letter to his son, Michael. "The model looks much nicer than this," the elder Crick wrote.
The modern era of biology was launched 60 years ago today with the publication of a one-page paper in the journal Nature that described the DNA's double helix structure, a revelation of how organisms store biological information and pass it from one generation to the next.
The date is also special because it commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project — the reference sequence for the 3 billion DNA letters that comprise the human genome — the instruction book for building and maintaining a human being, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, notes in a blog post today.
To learn more about the day and the discoveries it celebrates, check out the National Human Genome Research Institute's DNA Day Facebook page. Visitors are encouraged to suggest a "DNAnalogy" that helps explain what DNA is. For example, visitor Tom Wood writes that "DNA is like an architectural blueprint. The blueprint is the plan, but it's never the final result."
The weeks leading up to this year's celebration of the 1953 discovery have been filled with stories about a 60-year-old letter in which biologist Francis Crick told his son about DNA's double helix structure. The letter and Crick's Nobel Prize sold at an auction on April 10 for a record $6 million.
To learn more about the DNA, check out the stories below:
- New Nobel letters reveal secrets of DNA prize
- Nobel Prize medal for discovery of DNA structure to be sold
- Lessons learned as human genome map turns 10
- Human Genome Project marks 10 years
John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News. To learn more about him, visit his website.