Friday, December 07, 2007

The Double Helix

Ordered myself a copy of Dawn to Decadence on his birthday to celebrate. And it looks like Barzun may have indirectly inspired James Watson to write his classic, The Double Helix. On page 213 of Watson’s very enjoyable Avoid Boring (Other) People:

How to write up [The Double Helix] did not crystallize until a spring 1962 dinner in New York City. . . On the dais I was next to Columbia University’s literary polymath Jacques Barzun, known to me since my adolescence through his regular appearances on the CBS radio network. Stimulated by Barzun’s conversation, I used my after-dinner acceptance speech to tell the story of our discovery as a very human drama. . . .My unexpected candor elicited much laughter and was later praised for allowing the audience to feel like insiders in one of science’s big moments. . . . I saw in my future the writing of what Truman Capote would later call the “nonfiction novel.”

— Herrick, commenting in Gene Expression