DNA has a famous and distinct structure that obeys all the laws of chemistry. This structure gives DNA the ability to store complex information and pass it on to future generations.
The structure of DNA
The structure of DNA was figured out by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. They had some help from the chemists Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins who used a technique called X-ray crystallography to get information about the structure of DNA.
They found that DNA is made up of two strands of nucleotides that join together and wrap around each other to form a double helix.
Why is DNA so special?
The ability of DNA to encode large amounts of information is central to its role as the molecule of life. Also, the information contained in DNA can be copied and passed on to future generations. The structure of DNA enables it to store and replicate a wealth of information, which makes DNA a very unique and special type of molecule.
Living organisms organise themselves in ways that work. This self-organisation makes them unique in the physical world. It is also what makes the chemistry and physics of cells interesting and such a challenge for biotechnologists to replicate.
A research challenge
The chemical pathways of cells are incredibly complex, which can make interpreting research findings very difficult.
Related activity idea
This activity helps students conceptualise DNA by extracting it from tomatoes.