In 1954, James Watson and George Gamow formed a “gentleman’s club” to “solve the riddle of the RNA structure and to understand how it built proteins.” There were 20 members, each of whom was designated by an amino acid:
|Paul Doty||Physical Chemist||ASP|
|Robert Ledley||Mathematical Biophysicist||ASN|
|Robley Williams||Electron Microscopist||GLU|
|Richard Feynman||Theoretical Physicist||GLY|
|Nicholas Metropolis||Physicist, Mathematician||MET|
|Gunther Stent||Physical Chemist||PHE|
|Leslie Orgel||Theoretical Chemist||THR|
|Max Delbrück||Theoretical Physicist||TRY|
“We were just drinking California wine and we got the idea,” Gamow recalled. Each member was given a black woolen necktie with an RNA helix embroidered in green and yellow (above are Crick, Rich, Orgel, and Watson).
Each also received a gold tiepin with the three-letter abbreviation of his amino acid (which led several people to ask Gamow why his pin bore the wrong monogram).
Adopting the motto “Do or die, or don’t try,” they met twice a year to share ideas, cigars, and alcohol. Several went on to become Nobel laureates — but it fell to Marshall Nirenberg, a non-member, to finally decipher the code link between nucleic and amino acids.