Crick, Watson and Wilkins

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Crick, Watson and Wilkins

James Watson, Francis Crick and other Nobel laureates pose for a photograph in 1962.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

These days, we almost take for granted the facts of DNA and its fundamental role as a building block of life as we know it. But DNA was a mystery until Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins began unraveling these minute, double-helix structures.

For their work, the three won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In discovering the molecular structure of nucleic acids, as well as conveying its importance in relaying information throughout a living organism, the three helped blaze a trail for all sorts of new genetic advances.

This prize did come with a notable asterisk. Before Crick and company made their discoveries, biophysicist Rosalind Franklin found a way to photograph DNA. Crick's group used those images as a turning point for their research. However, her insights were overshadowed somewhat by her male counterparts', and she died before she could address the matter with the Nobel committee, which has strict rules against honoring people posthumously.

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