Contribution to DNA discovery recognised

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From: Gerald Tinsley, Boston Spa, Wetherby.

I WAS very interested to see the piece (The Yorkshire Post, June 18) about Professor Astbury and his discoveries in molecular biology.

As a student in the Department of Textile Industries at Leeds University, where I graduated in 1949, I learned of the work done in the early 1940s by a team led by Dr Astbury and Professor Speakman (the head of the textile department) to discover the molecular structure of the wool fibre and many other proteins.

They used X-ray diffraction techniques which were developed earlier at Leeds University (by Lawrence Bragg) for studying the molecular structure of crystals, and they applied them to wool fibres which are only partially crystalline.

I presume that Watson and Crick must have been aware of this work when they were unravelling the structure of DNA, which is a similar twisted ladder formation. The chain of discoveries from X-Rays to crystals, to wool and other proteins, to DNA is typical of how science progresses.

I have never before seen any recognition of Professor Astbury’s part in the process which led up to the discoveries by Watson and Crick, for which they received a Nobel Prize.