Looking back on 150 years of Nature.
As part of its anniversary, the research journal recently published a series of articles—written for the general public—to assess the lasting impact of 10 key papers from its archive. Here are three:
The now famous ‘Photograph 51’, together with other unpublished data of Franklin’s that Perutz had shown Watson and Crick, told the pair that DNA did indeed form a helix, and that the structure consisted of two chains running in opposite directions. Watson was stumped, however, over how the bases could pair up between the two. He made cardboard cutouts of the bases, trying to fit them together, but nothing seemed to work.
The Montreal Protocol led to global CFC production and consumption phase-outs by 2010, and now the Antarctic ozone hole is slowly healing10. The protocol thus prevented the ozone layer from collapsing19 and is a signature success story for global environmental policy.
When the paper appeared, the Taung Child and 32-year-old Dart became world famous overnight. Yet not everyone was receptive to new ideas about human evolution. Indeed, five months later, a court case known as the Scopes monkey trial began in the United States to settle whether evolution could be taught in Tennessee schools. The immediate reaction to Dart’s paper was mainly enthusiastic, but he soon became a target of ‘you’ll-burn-in-hell’ letters from religious fundamentalists, and his former London colleagues published harsh criticisms of his research. Dart’s main champion, the physician Robert Broom, remarked4: “It makes one rub one’s eyes. Here was a man who had made one of the greatest discoveries in the world’s history — a discovery that may yet rank in importance with Darwin’s Origin of Species; and English culture treats him as if he had been a naughty schoolboy.”