The logical architecture of the molecular structure known as DNA was elucidated in 1953 by Nobel Prize winners James Watson and Francis Crick. Apparently, upon realizing what they had discovered, the two headed right for the pub at 10 in the morning, telling the barkeep, “We have discovered the secret of life.”

But it took more than two decades of patient, frustrating, difficult work in underfunded and poorly equipped laboratories around the world before DNA began to reveal its secrets.

Vineyard Haven Evening Lecture Series coordinator Betty Burton was a molecular geneticist in one of those labs. She will present a talk called Life on Board the DNA Rocket-Ship, 1973-1978, on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.

These days it takes mere seconds for machines to do what used to take months in laboratories lacking automated equipment. Ms. Burton worked in one of those labs, and the discoveries from this lab garnered her an invitation to present their findings to the 1979 Bacteriophage DNA Meetings at the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor National Laboratory, where Mr. Watson was then director and Mr. Crick was visiting from the Salk Institute.

Ms. Burton will go over the basic mechanism of DNA and protein synthesis — how it was understood then, and is now — and she’ll talk about what it was like to be a young woman presenting a scientific paper about DNA to a nearly all-male audience including Watson and Crick.