On this date in 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick published an article in the British magazine Nature that changed the world of biology and genetics. In an article that was a model of brevity (only two pages), they presented their double helix model of the DNA, a model that for the first time explained how the genetic code is passed from one generation to the next.
The work of Watson and Crick sparked a revolution in the scientific world, leading to amazing and controversial discoveries and experiments in genetic engineering.
Fifty years to the day of the publication of Watson and Crick’s article, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project, an international effort to identify, map, and sequence the 3 billion DNA letters in the human genetic instruction book.
The root of the word genetics is from the Greek gen which means many different things relating to life: production, formation, generation, origin, cause, birth, kind, and race. Examples of words with this root are cryogenics, eugenic, genealogy, generate, genesis, genocide, genre, heterogeneous, homogeneous, indigenous, progeny, and telegenic (1).
The word gene was coined in 1909, and DNA, the three-letter initialization for deoxyribonucleic acid, first appeared in the dictionary in 1944.
Since the discovery of Watson and Crick in 1953, several other gene related terms have been added to the language, here is a small sample (2, 3).
genetic code (1961)
genetic engineering (1969)
genetic fingerprint (1969)
genetic screening (1980s)
obesity gene (1990s)
genetically modified (1995)
On April 7 (Television Broadcast Day), we looked at two-letter initializations like TV. DNA is an example of a three-letter initialization. Initializations are different from acronyms where the letters make a word (as in NASA); in initializations each letter is pronounced as an individual letter as in C – I - A.
Today's Challenge: Initial Shock Part Three
How many three-letter initializations can you name? List them alphabetically and use a good dictionary if you need help. See example answers after the Quote of the Day.
Quote of the Day: Life can only be understood backwards. It must be lived forwards. --Soren Kierkegaard
1 – Crutchfield, Roger S. English Vocabulary Quick Reference. Virginia: LexaDyne Publishing, Inc., 1999.
2 - Flexner, Stuart Berg and Anne H. Soukhanov. Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
3 – Ayto, John. 20th Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
ABC, BBC, BCS, CBS, CEO, CIA, CNN, CPA, CPU, DNA, DVD, EKG, FBI, FAQ, FYI, HIV, IBM, IOU, IRA, LCD, LSD, MLB, NBA, NBC, NFL, NHL, NYU, POW, SAT, SDI, UFO, VHS