In order to understand the role of DNA we must first look at the cell theory. It was in 1665 a scientist named Robert Hooke observed the honeycomb-shaped structures of a wedge of cork under his primitive microscope. He described these structures, which were actually cell walls of dead plants, as cells. Hooke's first observations of cells eventually lead to the establishment of the cell theory.
As time passed, microscopes were improved and the biological knowledge base grew. In the 1830's, almost two centuries after Hooke's observations, Robert Brown observed a small and dark-staining sphere inside plant cells. He called this structure a nucleus. Brown's discovery was a key step in the development of the basic cell theory.
In the 1830's, Theodor Schwann and Mathias Schleiden (zoologist and botanist respectively) concluded that the nucleus plays a chief role in the growth and development of living cells. The duo established the basis of the cell theory. The modern cell theory states that all living organisms consist of one or more nucleated cells which are the fundamental unit of function of living organisms and that cells come from existing cells.
The nuclei of cells contain very long threads of nucleic acids and proteins called chromosomes. In the early 1900's, the hypothesis that chromosomes contain hereditary information was gaining acceptance from the biological community. More recent discoveries and investigations has revealed that material within the nucleus indeed contains hereditary information that directs the growth, development, and activities of the cell.
race to reveal the structure of DNA
Once accepted and confirmed that DNA was the source of hereditary information it was a race to discover its structure in hopes of better understanding this fascinating molecule. There were many people who contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA but it was James Watson and Francis Crick who ultimately developed the first three-dimensional model of a DNA strand. Rosalind Franklin made a significant contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA with the information she gathered using during X-ray diffraction. At this time, scientists knew that DNA consisted of sugars (deoxyribose sugar), phosphates, and four different nitrogen bases: adenine, guanine cytosine, and thymine. Scientists also discovered, by comparing the DNA in various animals, that the proportion of each nitrogen base in the DNA of different species of animals varies but number of adenine molecules equals to the number of thymine molecules, and the number of guanine molecules equals to the number of cytosine molecules. Using these vital pieces of information, Watson and Crick worked together to evolve the first three-dimensional model of the structure of DNA in 1953. Watson and Crick's model is still in use today.
|1998 ThinkQuest Team#18617, George Ma, Justin Wong, Liam Stewart|