Tag Archives: October

Nobel Prize for DNA Discovery

Watson and Crick with their model of DNA.

Watson and Crick with their model of DNA.

On October 18, 1962, molecular biologists and geneticists James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The prize was awarded “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material,” also known as the structure of DNA.

James Watson, a 23-year-old American research fellow, went to work at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory in England in the 1950s, and it was here that he met Francis Crick, a 35-year-old graduate student. The two both had a fascination with learning how genetic information was stored in molecular form and began to entertain the idea that they could figure out a molecular model of  DNA’s structure. These ideas were not far fetched – in 1943 medical researcher Oswald Avery suspected that DNA carried genetic information, and that it may actually be a gene. Most thought the gene might be a protein, not a nucleic acid, but still no one knew exactly how it worked or it’s molecular structure. Linus Pauling found that most proteins were alpha helix shaped in 1948, spiraling like a spring coil. A few years later, Erwin Chargaff, a biochemist, deduced that certain nitrogen bases in DNA always occurred in a one-to-one ratio. All of these hypotheses about DNA helped in the discovery of DNA’s structure.

Watson and Crick were not the only people actively trying to break ground on the subject of DNA’s structure in the early ’50s. Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King’s College in London were also studying DNA, using X-ray diffraction to beam X-rays through the molecule, creating a shadow picture of the molecule’s structure. Feeling patronized by most men in her field, Franklin often worked alone, and discovered using the X-ray diffraction images that DNA in its higher humidity form had a helical shape, however, she was not ready to make this announcement until she gathered evidence on its shape in its other form too.

Frustrated with Franklin, Wilkins traveled to Cambridge in January of 1953 and shared these findings with Watson and Crick, unbeknownst to Franklin. Shortly after Wilkins shared this data, Watson and Crick made a model consisting of two chains of nucleotides in a helix shape, one going up and one going down like a spiral staircase. They also used the findings Chargaff had deduced about matching base pairs to interlock the middle of the double helix and keep the distance between the two chains consistent.

Watson and Crick wrote about their findings in the April 1953 issue of Nature and explained that because each strand of DNA is a template for another, DNA molecules can reproduce themselves during cell division which allows organisms to accurately reproduce themselves with the exception of incidental errors, or mutations.

In 1962, when Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize, Franklin had already died, and the Nobel Prize cannot be given posthumously. Some wonder if Franklin would have been given the award for her findings if she had been alive.

This discovery is known as one of the most important in biological work in the last 100 years, and it opened up a whole new world of scientific discovery.

Sources: wellcometrust: The Human Genome, PBS.org, PBS Evolution Library, Wikipedia

 

Read full storyComments Off

Evel Knievel’s Birthday

Daredevil Evel Knievel performing a wheelie in one of his famous jumpsuits.

Daredevil Evel Knievel performing a wheelie in one of his famous jumpsuits.

October 17 is Evel Knievel’s birthday! Evel Knievel was an American daredevil, best known for his 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980.

Evel Knievel was born Robert “Bobby” Craig Knievel in Butte, Montana in 1938. He received the moniker “Evil Knievel” after being put in jail for stealing hubcaps where there was also a man with the nickname “Awful Knofel.” Years later, he legally changed it to “Evel Knievel” to match his last name and because he did want to be considered “evil.”

He was an avid thrill seeker and his first motorcycle was a Harley-Davidson he stole when he was 13. His grandmother bought him a Triumph when he was 16. As he grew, he began to participate in local rodeos and ski jumping events. In the 1950s, he joined the army where he was a volunteer paratrooper and became a pole vaulter for their track team. When his time in the army was over, he returned to his hometown and met and married Linda Joan Bork. After returning home and getting married, Knievel spent some time playing semi-pro and professional hockey. To try and make money after his first son was born, Knievel spent short amounts of time helping hunters shoot big game with his guide service called Sur-Kill and selling insurance.

When he was denied a promotion at the insurance company, he moved his family to Washington. In Sunnyside, Washington, he began working at a motorcycle shop, and it was here that he learned how to do a “wheelie” and ride while standing on the seat of his bike. While working at the shop and trying to figure out more ways to support his family, he recalled the exploits of famed stunt-car driver,  Joie Chitwood, and decided he could do similar stunts on a motorcycle.

To attract visitors, he promoted and set up an event himself where he announced that he would jump his bike over a 20-foot box of rattlesnakes and two mountain lions. In front of 1,000 people he performed the stunt, but fell short and hit the box of rattlesnakes. Despite his failure to completely clear the jump, the audience was awestruck and Knievel knew he could turn this into something bigger and better.

In 1965, Knievel formed Evel Knievel and His Motorcycle Daredevils, and they began to tour the West coast performing motorcycle tricks. After retaining a series of injuries, the show broke up and Knievel continued to perform on his own. He performed a jump over the fountains at Ceasar’s Palace in 1968 which was highly publicized, but resulted in Knievel coming short of his landing and fracturing his skull, breaking his hip, several ribs, his wrist and both ankles. He also suffered a concussion and was in a coma for 29 days.

To keep himself in the public eye, Knievel started rumors in 1968 that he would jump across the Grand Canyon, but by 1971, he realized that the U.S. Department of the Interior was never going to allow him to perform such a feat. Since this publicity stunt was foiled, Knievel searched for something just as daring to keep fans interested. He soon discovered Snake River Canyon in Idaho which was wide enough, deep enough, and on private property. He leased 300 acres of land to perform the stunt.

After hiring an aeronautical engineer to build him a rocket-powered cycle he attempted a 1,600 foot jump over the canyon in 1974, but his parachute deployed too early causing him to drift to the canyon floor and sustain some minor injuries. The stunt earned him a whopping $6 million.

Later that year he performed other money-making stunts such as jumping over 13 single-deck AEC Merlin buses at Wembley Stadium in London and an aquarium tank containing 13 sharks in Chicago. Both stunts left him with injuries.

Knievel retired from major stunts after his shark jump and mainly made public appearances to help launch the career of his daredevil son, Robbie Knievel. To this day, Evil Knieval holds a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime,” totaling up to 433.

Over the following years, Knievel went through several lawsuits including one after he assaulted his former press agent and lost many of his sponsorships and another more recent suit with hip hop artist Kanye West who used Knievel’s trademarked image in one of his music videos.

Knievel’s health began declining in the late ’90s due to Hepatitis C, which he contracted after one of his many blood transfusions. In 1999, his liver began failing because of the disease combined with his heavy drinking, and he was only given a few days to live. He received a successful liver transplant, however, and it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when he was diagnosed with diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung condition, that his health once again started to decline. In 2007, at the age of 69, he died in Clearwater, Florida.

His life legend as “The Last Gladiator” lives on today, as daredevils around the world try to match his motorcycle feats. Watch the video tribute below with some of Knievel’s most daring motorcycle feats!

R.I.P. Evel Knievel Tribute Video by mysteryshopperjob

Sources: Wikipedia, NY Times

Read full storyComments { 0 }

Marie Antoinette Beheaded

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in coronation robes by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775.

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in coronation robes by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775.

On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette, who was the Queen of France from 1774-1792, was beheaded at the Place de la Révolution in Paris, France.

The future Queen of France was born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna in 1755 in Austria to Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa. As part of a plan to “unite” Austria and France after the Seven Years’ War, and due to the fact that several of Maria Antonia’s female relatives died during a smallpox outbreak, it was decided that she would marry Louis XVI, Dauphin of France. At the age of 14, Maria Antonia married Louis XVI by proxy and was renamed Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France.

At first, Marie Antoinette was considered to be very popular with the people of France. Her first official appearance at the Tuileries in Paris was reported to have 50,000 people crying out to see her. The general public at this time was swooned by her beauty and personality. The French Court had a different opinion of her due to the long-time tensions between France and Austria.

Since the beginning of her marriage and her move to Versailles, the Dauphine received letters from her mother which were often filled with criticism. These criticisms included how Marie Antoinette could not “inspire passion” in her husband who occupied himself with his hobbies, or that she was no longer pretty and had lost her grace. Because of the lack of attention she received from her husband and the incessant criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend money extravagantly on clothing and gambling. This extravagant spending would later work against her and how the people of France viewed her.

Marie continued to perform her wifely duties and finally began to bear children with her husband after they were married for seven years. Her spending habits did not cease, and she became known for her over-the-top fashions in the French court. Louis XVI sent large amounts of money to America to aid the American Revolution, which pushed France into further debt and raised taxes, even further negatively affecting the poorer people of France. This combined with increasing unemployment across France and poor crops caused the French people to be filled with resentment for the French monarchy by the late 1780s. Marie became an obvious target for hatred because of her Austrian heritage and her spending habits while the people of France were starving.

On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the French prison of Bastille, marking a turning point in the French Revolution. That October, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their surviving two children were taken from the Palace of Versailles and put under house arrest at the Tuileries of Paris. In September of 1792, it was officially declared that the French monarchy had fallen. Louis XVI was separated from his family and was executed by guillotine in January of 1793.

Mourning the loss of her husband, Marie Antoinette became severely depressed, refused to eat, and suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer. She was charged with treason on the morning of October 16, 1793 after two days of court proceedings and was paraded around Paris for several hours in an open cart with her hair cut off. She was beheaded around noon that same day and her last words were, “Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it,” after she stepped on her executioner’s foot.

Sources: Wikipedia, MentalFloss.com

Read full storyComments { 0 }

Halloween Contest

Stay tuned for a fun Halloween contest!

Here’s a hint: have your pumpkins ready!Stampa

Read full storyComments { 0 }