Writing from a scientist’s perspective, if indeed I qualify as such, I did not feel that Watson had done anything overly unethical in the quest to unravel the structure of DNA. All of the scientists in the book were or are brilliant. Watson is vilified as a monstrous sexist, but even he admits, although perhaps grudgingly, that Rosalind Franklin had a “sharp” mind. I do agree that he was a bit sexist, or else that he chose to portray himself in an exaggerated state, but this had nothing to do with his using Franklin’s X-ray’s. He used them because they were the best. Rosalind Franklin was brilliant and could do things that no one else in the world could. Perhaps she would not have discovered the structure at all, or else it might have taken much longer, and unfortunately she died quite young.
What came into my mind during the book was that if just maybe the other scientists would have made real efforts to reach out to her, and make sure that she felt like she was included in this group of brilliant men (which she should have been), maybe these great minds could have worked together. She would have had no problem showing them her X-ray results if they had worked together on it. Even if some researchers were at Cambridge, some at King’s College of London, and some at Cal Tech it is possible to have a collaborative effort. This collaboration is I think prevented by the amount of money flowing into science, and the fact that the ones sending the money want their labs to finish first. Who wants a tie? (even if that tie could have been in half the time).
So, Watson did what he had to do. He had a theory, and needed it’s physical manifestation. Honestly I would have done the same thing he did. Franklin would not have given him the pictures of the B-Form DNA. It is unfortunate that he had to get the information in this way. It would have been nice if he and Crick and Franklin had been able to collaborate. This would not have produced such an interesting book though. Literature and the human race should thank Mr. Watson for the “misappropriation”.