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Francis Crick

Francis Crick

Overview
Francis Harry Compton Crick OM FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 molecular biologist
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

, biophysicist
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

, and neuroscientist
Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

, and most noted for being one of two co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 molecule
Molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

 in 1953, together with James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

. He, Watson and Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

 were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure
Molecular geometry
Molecular geometry or molecular structure is the three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms that constitute a molecule. It determines several properties of a substance including its reactivity, polarity, phase of matter, color, magnetism, and biological activity.- Molecular geometry determination...

 of nucleic acid
Nucleic acid
Nucleic acids are biological molecules essential for life, and include DNA and RNA . Together with proteins, nucleic acids make up the most important macromolecules; each is found in abundance in all living things, where they function in encoding, transmitting and expressing genetic information...

s and its significance for information transfer in living material".

Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

 and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the genetic code
Genetic code
The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material is translated into proteins by living cells....

.
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Big questions get big answers.

Rather than believe that Watson and Crick made the DNA structure, I would rather stress that the structure made Watson and Crick.

Both of us had decided, quite independently of each other, that the central problem in molecular biology was the chemical structure of the gene.

Encyclopedia
Francis Harry Compton Crick OM FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 molecular biologist
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

, biophysicist
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

, and neuroscientist
Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

, and most noted for being one of two co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 molecule
Molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

 in 1953, together with James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

. He, Watson and Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

 were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure
Molecular geometry
Molecular geometry or molecular structure is the three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms that constitute a molecule. It determines several properties of a substance including its reactivity, polarity, phase of matter, color, magnetism, and biological activity.- Molecular geometry determination...

 of nucleic acid
Nucleic acid
Nucleic acids are biological molecules essential for life, and include DNA and RNA . Together with proteins, nucleic acids make up the most important macromolecules; each is found in abundance in all living things, where they function in encoding, transmitting and expressing genetic information...

s and its significance for information transfer in living material".

Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

 and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the genetic code
Genetic code
The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material is translated into proteins by living cells....

. He is widely known for use of the term “central dogma
Central dogma of molecular biology
The central dogma of molecular biology was first articulated by Francis Crick in 1958 and re-stated in a Nature paper published in 1970:In other words, the process of producing proteins is irreversible: a protein cannot be used to create DNA....

” to summarize an idea that gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

tic information flow in cells
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

 is essentially one-way, from DNA to RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

 to protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

.

During the remainder of his career, he held the post of J.W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a premier independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine; among the founding consultants were Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. Building...

 in La Jolla, California. His later research centered on theoretical neurobiology and attempts to advance the scientific study of human consciousness. He remained in this post until his death; "he was editing a manuscript on his death bed, a scientist until the bitter end" according to Christof Koch
Christof Koch
Christof Koch is an American neuroscientist working on the neural basis of consciousness. He is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at California Institute of Technology, where he has been since 1986...

.

Family and education


Francis Crick was the first son of Harry Crick (1887–1948) and Annie Elizabeth Crick, née
NEE
NEE is a political protest group whose goal was to provide an alternative for voters who are unhappy with all political parties at hand in Belgium, where voting is compulsory.The NEE party was founded in 2005 in Antwerp...

 Wilkins, (1879–1955). He was born and raised in Weston Favell
Weston Favell
Weston Favell is a former village in the English town of Northampton, Northamptonshire.-Location:Since the Industrial Revolution and 20th Century, the town of Northampton has grown closer and closer to the village boundaries, such that it is an outer district of Northampton, near to several other...

, then a small village near the English town of Northampton
Northampton
Northampton is a large market town and local government district in the East Midlands region of England. Situated about north-west of London and around south-east of Birmingham, Northampton lies on the River Nene and is the county town of Northamptonshire. The demonym of Northampton is...

 in which Crick’s father and uncle ran the family’s boot and shoe factory. His grandfather, Walter Drawbridge Crick (1857–1903), an amateur naturalist
Naturalist
Naturalist may refer to:* Practitioner of natural history* Conservationist* Advocate of naturalism * Naturalist , autobiography-See also:* The American Naturalist, periodical* Naturalism...

, wrote a survey of local foraminifera
Foraminifera
The Foraminifera , or forams for short, are a large group of amoeboid protists which are among the commonest plankton species. They have reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net...

 (single-celled protists with shells), corresponded with Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

, and had two gastropods (snails or slugs) named after him.

At an early age, Francis was attracted to science and what he could learn about it from books. As a child, he was taken to church by his parents, but by about age 12 he said he didn't want to go anymore, preferring a scientific search for answers over religious belief.
He was educated at Northampton Grammar School and, after the age of 14, Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School, in Mill Hill, London, is a coeducational independent school for boarding and day pupils aged 13–18. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an organisation of public schools in the United Kingdom....

 in London (on scholarship), where he studied mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, and chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 with his best friend John Shilston. He shared the Walter Knox Prize for Chemistry on Foundation Day, Friday, 7 July 1933.

At the age of 21 Crick earned a B.Sc. degree
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 in physics from University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

. Crick had failed to gain a place at a Cambridge college, probably through failing their requirement for Latin. Crick later became a PhD student and Honorary Fellow of Caius College
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Gonville and Caius College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The college is often referred to simply as "Caius" , after its second founder, John Keys, who fashionably latinised the spelling of his name after studying in Italy.- Outline :Gonville and...

 and mainly worked at the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

 and the Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

 (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
The Laboratory of Molecular Biology is a research institute in Cambridge, England, which was at the forefront of the revolution in molecular biology which occurred in the 1950–60s, since then it remains a major medical research laboratory with a much broader focus.-Early beginnings: 1947-61:Max...

 in Cambridge. He was also an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College and of University College, London.

Crick began a Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 research project on measuring viscosity
Viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 of water at high temperatures (which he later described as "the dullest problem imaginable") in the laboratory of physicist Edward Neville da Costa Andrade
Edward Andrade
Edward Neville da Costa Andrade FRS was an English physicist, writer, and poet.-Background:Andrade was a Sephardi Jew and is a descendant Moses da Costa Andrade...

 at University College, London, but with the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (in particular, an incident during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 when a bomb fell through the roof of the laboratory and destroyed his experimental apparatus), Crick was deflected from a possible career in physics.

During World War II, he worked for the Admiralty Research Laboratory
Admiralty Research Laboratory
The Admiralty Research Laboratory, or ARL, was a research laboratory that supported the work of the UK Admiralty in Teddington, London, England....

, from which emerged a group of many notable scientists, including David Bates
David Bates (physicist)
Sir David Robert Bates, FRS was an Irish mathematician and physicist.Born in Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland, he moved to Belfast with his family in 1925, attending the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. He enrolled with the Queen's University of Belfast in 1934...

, Robert Boyd, George Deacon
George Deacon
Sir George Edward Raven Deacon was a British oceanographer and chemist.He was born in Leicester, the son of George Raven and Emma Deacon and educated at the Newarke school, Leicester...

, John Gunn
John Currie Gunn
Sir John Currie Gunn CBE, FRSE was an influential Scottish scientist.Gunn was born in Glasgow and educated at the University of Glasgow, and St John's College, Cambridge....

, Harrie Massey
Harrie Massey
Sir Harrie Stewart Wilson Massey FRS was an influential Australian mathematical physicist. He worked primarily in the fields of atomic and atmospheric physics.- Life and career :...

 and Nevill Mott; he worked on the design of magnetic
Electromagnetism
Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature. The other three are the strong interaction, the weak interaction and gravitation...

 and acoustic mines
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 and was instrumental in designing a new mine that was effective against German minesweepers
Minesweeper (ship)
A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

.

After World War II, in 1947, Crick began studying biology and became part of an important migration of physical scientists into biology research. This migration was made possible by the newly won influence of physicists such as Sir John Randall
John Randall (physicist)
Sir John Turton Randall, FRS, FRSE, was a British physicist and biophysicist, credited with radical improvement of the cavity magnetron, an essential component of centimetric wavelength radar, which was one of the keys to the Allied victory in the Second World War. It is also the key component of...

, who had helped win the war with inventions such as radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

. Crick had to adjust from the "elegance and deep simplicity" of physics to the "elaborate chemical mechanisms that natural selection had evolved over billions of years." He described this transition as, "almost as if one had to be born again." According to Crick, the experience of learning physics had taught him something important—hubris—and the conviction that since physics was already a success, great advances should also be possible in other sciences such as biology. Crick felt that this attitude encouraged him to be more daring than typical biologists who tended to concern themselves with the daunting problems of biology and not the past successes of physics.

For the better part of two years, Crick worked on the physical properties of cytoplasm
Cytoplasm
The cytoplasm is a small gel-like substance residing between the cell membrane holding all the cell's internal sub-structures , except for the nucleus. All the contents of the cells of prokaryote organisms are contained within the cytoplasm...

 at Cambridge's Strangeways Laboratory, headed by Honor Bridget Fell, with a Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

 studentship, until he joined Max Perutz
Max Perutz
Max Ferdinand Perutz, OM, CH, CBE, FRS was an Austrian-born British molecular biologist, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew, for their studies of the structures of hemoglobin and globular proteins...

 and John Kendrew
John Kendrew
Sir John Cowdery Kendrew, CBE, FRS was an English biochemist and crystallographer who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Max Perutz; their group in the Cavendish Laboratory investigated the structure of heme-containing proteins.-Biography:He was born in Oxford, son of Wilford George...

 at the Cavendish Laboratory. The Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge was under the general direction of Sir Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

, who won the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 in 1915 at the age of 25. Bragg was influential in the effort to beat a leading American chemist, Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

, to the discovery of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

's structure (after having been 'pipped-at-the-post' by Pauling's success in determining the alpha helix structure of proteins). At the same time Bragg's Cavendish Laboratory was also effectively competing with King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

, whose Biophysics department was under the direction of Sir John Randall
John Randall (physicist)
Sir John Turton Randall, FRS, FRSE, was a British physicist and biophysicist, credited with radical improvement of the cavity magnetron, an essential component of centimetric wavelength radar, which was one of the keys to the Allied victory in the Second World War. It is also the key component of...

. (Randall had turned down Francis Crick from working at King's College.) Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

 of King's College were personal friends, which influenced subsequent scientific events as much as the close friendship between Crick and James Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

. Crick and Wilkins first met at King's College and not, as erroneously recorded by two authors, at the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 during World War II.

He married twice, was father to three children and grandfather to six grandchildren; his brother Anthony (born in 1918) predeceased him in 1966
  • Spouses: Ruth Doreen Crick, née Dodd (b. 1913, m. 18 February 1940 – 8 May 1947), now Mrs. James Stewart Potter; Odile Crick
    Odile Crick
    Odile Crick was a British artist best known for her drawing of the double helix structure of DNA discovered by her husband Francis Crick and James D...

    , née Speed (b. 11 August 1920, m. 14 August 1949 – 28 July 2004, d. 5 July 2007)
  • Children: Michael Francis Compton (b. 25 November 1940) [by Doreen Crick]; Gabrielle Anne (b. 15 July 1951) and Jacqueline Marie-Therese [later Nichols] (b. 12 March 1954, d. 28 February 2011) [by Odile Crick];
  • Grandchildren: Alexander (b. March 1974), Kindra (b. May 1976), Camberley (b. June 1978), and Francis (b. February 1981), Michael & Barbara Crick's children; Mark & Nicholas, Jacqueline and Christopher Nichols' children.


Crick died of colon cancer
Colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer, is a cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth , in the colon, rectum, or vermiform appendix. Colorectal cancer is clinically distinct from anal cancer, which affects the anus....

 on 28 July 2004 at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Thornton Hospital in La Jolla; he was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. A public memorial was held on 27 September 2004 at The Salk Institute
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a premier independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine; among the founding consultants were Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. Building...

, La Jolla, near San Diego, California; guest speakers included James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

, Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner, CH FRS is a South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate, shared with H...

, Alex Rich
Alexander Rich
Alexander Rich, MD is a biologist and biophysicist. He is the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at MIT and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rich earned both an A.B. and an M.D. from Harvard University. He was a post-doc of Linus Pauling along with James Watson...

, the late Seymour Benzer
Seymour Benzer
Seymour Benzer was an American physicist, molecular biologist and behavioral geneticist. His career began during the molecular biology revolution of the 1950s, and he eventually rose to prominence in the fields of molecular and behavioral genetics. He led a productive genetics research lab both at...

, Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug
Sir Aaron Klug, OM, PRS is a Lithuanian-born British chemist and biophysicist, and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.-Biography:Klug was...

, Christof Koch
Christof Koch
Christof Koch is an American neuroscientist working on the neural basis of consciousness. He is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at California Institute of Technology, where he has been since 1986...

, Pat Churchland, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Tomaso Poggio
Tomaso Poggio
Tomaso Armando Poggio, born in Genoa, Italy, is the Eugene McDermott Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the director of The Center...

, the late Leslie Orgel
Leslie Orgel
Leslie Eleazer Orgel FRS was a British chemist.Born in London, England, Orgel received his B.A. in chemistry with first class honours from Oxford University in 1949...

, Terry Sejnowski
Terry Sejnowski
Terrence Joseph Sejnowski is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is the Francis Crick Professor at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he directs the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory...

, his son Michael Crick, and his youngest daughter the late Jacqueline Nichols. A private memorial for family and colleagues had already been held on 3 August 2004.

Biology research



Crick was interested in two fundamental unsolved problems of biology. First, how molecules make the transition from the non-living to the living, and second, how the brain makes a conscious mind. He realized that his background made him more qualified for research on the first topic and the field of biophysics
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

. It was at this time of Crick’s transition from physics into biology that he was influenced by both Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

 and Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist and theoretical biologist who was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, and is famed for a number of important contributions to physics, especially the Schrödinger equation, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933...

. It was clear in theory that covalent bond
Covalent bond
A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms. The stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding....

s in biological molecules could provide the structural stability needed to hold genetic
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 information in cells. It only remained as an exercise of experimental biology to discover exactly which molecule was the genetic molecule. In Crick’s view, Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

’s theory of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 by natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

, Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel
Gregor Johann Mendel was an Austrian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance...

’s genetics and knowledge of the molecular basis of genetics, when combined, revealed the secret of life. Crick had the very optimistic view that life would very soon be created in a test tube. However, some people (such as fellow researcher and colleague Esther Lederberg
Esther Lederberg
Esther Miriam Zimmer Lederberg was an American microbiologist and immunologist and pioneer of bacterial genetics...

) thought that Crick's views were overly optimistic

It was clear that some macromolecule
Macromolecule
A macromolecule is a very large molecule commonly created by some form of polymerization. In biochemistry, the term is applied to the four conventional biopolymers , as well as non-polymeric molecules with large molecular mass such as macrocycles...

 such as protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 was likely to be the genetic molecule. However, it was well-known that proteins are structural and functional macromolecules, some of which carry out enzymatic
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 reactions of cells. In the 1940s, some evidence had been found pointing to another macromolecule, DNA, the other major component of chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

s, as a candidate genetic molecule. In the 1944 Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment
Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment
The Avery–MacLeod–McCarty experiment was an experimental demonstration, reported in 1944 by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty, that DNA is the substance that causes bacterial transformation...

, Oswald Avery
Oswald Avery
Oswald Theodore Avery ForMemRS was a Canadian-born American physician and medical researcher. The major part of his career was spent at the Rockefeller University Hospital in New York City...

 and his collaborators showed that a heritable phenotypic
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 difference could be caused in bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 by providing them with a particular DNA molecule.


However, other evidence was interpreted as suggesting that DNA was structurally uninteresting and possibly just a molecular scaffold for the apparently more interesting protein molecules. Crick was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, at the right time (1949), to join Max Perutz’s
Max Perutz
Max Ferdinand Perutz, OM, CH, CBE, FRS was an Austrian-born British molecular biologist, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew, for their studies of the structures of hemoglobin and globular proteins...

 project at Cambridge University
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, and he began to work on the X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 of proteins. X-ray crystallography theoretically offered the opportunity to reveal the molecular structure of large molecules like proteins and DNA, but there were serious technical problems then preventing X-ray crystallography from being applicable to such large molecules.

1949–1950


Crick taught himself the mathematical theory of X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

. During the period of Crick's study of X-ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

 diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

, researchers in the Cambridge lab were attempting to determine the most stable helical conformation of amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 chains in proteins (the α helix
Alpha helix
A common motif in the secondary structure of proteins, the alpha helix is a right-handed coiled or spiral conformation, in which every backbone N-H group donates a hydrogen bond to the backbone C=O group of the amino acid four residues earlier...

). Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

 was the first to identify the 3.6 amino acids per helix turn ratio of the α helix. Crick was witness to the kinds of errors that his co-workers made in their failed attempts to make a correct molecular model of the α helix; these turned out to be important lessons that could be applied, in the future, to the helical structure of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

. For example, he learned the importance of the structural rigidity that double bonds confer on molecular structures which is relevant both to peptide bond
Peptide bond
This article is about the peptide link found within biological molecules, such as proteins. A similar article for synthetic molecules is being created...

s in proteins and the structure of nucleotide
Nucleotide
Nucleotides are molecules that, when joined together, make up the structural units of RNA and DNA. In addition, nucleotides participate in cellular signaling , and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions...

s in DNA.

1951–1953: DNA structure


In 1951, together with William Cochran
William Cochran (physicist)
William Cochran was a prominent Scottish physicist.Bill Cochran was born in Scotland and educated at Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh. He studied physics at the University of Edinburgh. He completed his PhD under Arnold Beevers in the Chemistry Department in X-ray crystallography of...

 and Vladimir Vand, Crick assisted in the development of a mathematical theory of X-ray diffraction
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 by a helical molecule. This theoretical result matched well with X-ray data obtained for protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s that contain sequences of amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s in the Alpha helix
Alpha helix
A common motif in the secondary structure of proteins, the alpha helix is a right-handed coiled or spiral conformation, in which every backbone N-H group donates a hydrogen bond to the backbone C=O group of the amino acid four residues earlier...

 conformation. Helical diffraction theory turned out to also be useful for understanding the structure of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

.

Late in 1951, Crick started working with James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

 at Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

 at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, England. Using "Photo 51
Photo 51
Photo 51 is the nickname given to an X-ray diffraction image of DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin in 1952 that was critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA. The photo was taken by Franklin while working at King's College London in Sir John Randall's group.James D...

" (the X-ray diffraction results of Raymond Gosling
Raymond Gosling
Raymond Gosling is a distinguished scientist who worked with both Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College London in deducing the structure of DNA, under the direction of Sir John Randall. His other KCL colleagues included Alex Stokes and Herbert Wilson.-Early years:He was born in...

 and Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite...

 of King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

, given to them by Gosling and Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

), Watson and Crick together developed a model for a helical structure of DNA, which they published in 1953. For this and subsequent work they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 in 1962 with Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

.

When James Watson came to Cambridge, Crick was a 35-year-old graduate student (due to his work during WWII) and Watson was only 23, but he already had a Ph.D. They shared an interest in the fundamental problem of learning how genetic information might be stored in molecular form. Watson and Crick talked endlessly about DNA and the idea that it might be possible to guess a good molecular model of its structure. A key piece of experimentally-derived information came from X-ray diffraction images that had been obtained by Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin, and their research student, Raymond Gosling. In November 1951, Wilkins came to Cambridge and shared his data with Watson and Crick. Alexander Stokes (another expert in helical diffraction theory) and Wilkins (both at King's College) had reached the conclusion that X-ray diffraction data for DNA indicated that the molecule had a helical structure—but Franklin vehemently disputed this conclusion. Stimulated by their discussions with Wilkins and what Watson learned by attending a talk given by Franklin about her work on DNA, Crick and Watson produced and showed off an erroneous first model of DNA. Their hurry to produce a model of DNA structure was driven in part by the knowledge that they were competing against Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

. Given Pauling's recent success in discovering the Alpha helix, they feared that Pauling might also be the first to determine the structure of DNA.

Many have speculated about what might have happened had Pauling been able to travel to Britain as planned in May 1952. He might have been invited to see some of the Wilkins/Franklin X-ray diffraction data, and such an event might have led him to a double helix model. As it was, his political activities caused his travel to be restricted by the U. S. government and he did not visit the UK until later, at which point he met none of the DNA researchers in England—but at any rate he was preoccupied with proteins at the time, not DNA. Watson and Crick were not officially working on DNA. Crick was writing his Ph.D. thesis; Watson also had other work such as trying to obtain crystals of myoglobin
Myoglobin
Myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates in general and in almost all mammals. It is related to hemoglobin, which is the iron- and oxygen-binding protein in blood, specifically in the red blood cells. The only time myoglobin is found in the...

 for X-ray diffraction experiments. In 1952, Watson did X-ray diffraction on tobacco mosaic virus
Tobacco mosaic virus
Tobacco mosaic virus is a positive-sense single stranded RNA virus that infects plants, especially tobacco and other members of the family Solanaceae. The infection causes characteristic patterns on the leaves . TMV was the first virus to be discovered...

 and found results indicating that it had helical structure. Having failed once, Watson and Crick were now somewhat reluctant to try again and for a while they were forbidden to make further efforts to find a molecular model of DNA.


Of great importance to the model building effort of Watson and Crick was Rosalind Franklin's understanding of basic chemistry, which indicated that the hydrophilic phosphate
Phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

-containing backbones of the nucleotide
Nucleotide
Nucleotides are molecules that, when joined together, make up the structural units of RNA and DNA. In addition, nucleotides participate in cellular signaling , and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions...

 chains of DNA should be positioned so as to interact with water molecules on the outside of the molecule while the hydrophobic bases should be packed into the core. Franklin shared this chemical knowledge with Watson and Crick when she pointed out to them that their first model (from 1951, with the phosphates inside) was obviously wrong.

Crick described what he saw as the failure of Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin to cooperate and work towards finding a molecular model of DNA as a major reason why he and Watson eventually made a second attempt to do so. They asked for, and received, permission to do so from both William Lawrence Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

 and Wilkins. In order to construct their model of DNA, Watson and Crick made use of information from unpublished X-ray diffraction images of Franklin's (shown at meetings and freely shared by Wilkins), including preliminary accounts of Franklin's results/photographs of the X-ray images that were included in a written progress report for the King's College laboratory of Sir John Randall
John Randall (physicist)
Sir John Turton Randall, FRS, FRSE, was a British physicist and biophysicist, credited with radical improvement of the cavity magnetron, an essential component of centimetric wavelength radar, which was one of the keys to the Allied victory in the Second World War. It is also the key component of...

 from late 1952.

It is a matter of debate whether Watson and Crick should have had access to Franklin's results without her knowledge or permission, and before she had a chance to formally publish
Academic publishing
Academic publishing describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted is often called...

 the results of her detailed analysis of her X-ray diffraction data which were included in the progress report. However, Watson and Crick found fault in her steadfast assertion that, according to her data, a helical structure was not the only possible shape for DNA—so they had a dilemma. In an effort to clarify this issue, Max Ferdinand Perutz later published what had been in the progress report, and suggested that nothing was in the report that Franklin herself had not said in her talk (attended by Watson) in late 1951. Further, Perutz explained that the report was to a Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

 (MRC) committee that had been created in order to "establish contact between the different groups of people working for the Council". Randall's and Perutz's laboratories were both funded by the MRC.

It is also not clear how important Franklin's unpublished results from the progress report actually were for the model-building done by Watson and Crick. After the first crude X-ray diffraction images of DNA were collected in the 1930s, William Astbury
William Astbury
William Thomas Astbury FRS was an English physicist and molecular biologist who made pioneering X-ray diffraction studies of biological molecules. His work on keratin provided the foundation for Linus Pauling's discovery of the alpha helix...

 had talked about stacks of nucleotides spaced at 3.4 angström (0.34 nanometre) intervals in DNA. A citation to Astbury's earlier X-ray diffraction work was one of only eight references in Franklin's first paper on DNA. Analysis of Astbury's published DNA results and the better X-ray diffraction images collected by Wilkins and Franklin revealed the helical nature of DNA. It was possible to predict the number of bases stacked within a single turn of the DNA helix (10 per turn; a full turn of the helix is 27 angströms [2.7 nm] in the compact A form, 34 angströms [3.4 nm] in the wetter B form). Wilkins shared this information about the B form of DNA with Crick and Watson. Crick did not see Franklin's B form X-ray images (Photo 51
Photo 51
Photo 51 is the nickname given to an X-ray diffraction image of DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin in 1952 that was critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA. The photo was taken by Franklin while working at King's College London in Sir John Randall's group.James D...

) until after the DNA double helix model was published.

One of the few references cited by Watson and Crick when they published their model of DNA, was to a published article that included Sven Furberg's DNA model that had the bases on the inside. Thus, the Watson and Crick model was not the first "bases in" model to be published. Furberg's results had also provided the correct orientation of the DNA sugars with respect to the bases. During their model building, Crick and Watson learned that an anti-parallel
Antiparallel (biochemistry)
In biochemistry, two molecules are antiparallel if they run side-by-side in opposite directions or when both strands are complimentary to each other....

 orientation of the two nucleotide chain backbones worked best to orient the base pair
Base pair
In molecular biology and genetics, the linking between two nitrogenous bases on opposite complementary DNA or certain types of RNA strands that are connected via hydrogen bonds is called a base pair...

s in the centre of a double helix. Crick's access to Franklin's progress report of late 1952 is what made Crick confident that DNA was a double helix with anti-parallel chains, but there were other chains of reasoning and sources of information that also led to these conclusions.

As a result of leaving King's College for another institution, Franklin was asked by John Randall to give up her work on DNA. When it became clear to Wilkins and the supervisors of Watson and Crick that Franklin was going to the new job, and that Linus Pauling was working on the structure of DNA, they were willing to share Franklin's data with Watson and Crick, in the hope that they could find a good model of DNA before Pauling was able. Franklin's X-ray diffraction data for DNA and her systematic analysis of DNA's structural features was useful to Watson and Crick in guiding them towards a correct molecular model. The key problem for Watson and Crick, which could not be resolved by the data from King's College, was to guess how the nucleotide bases pack into the core of the DNA double helix.


Another key to finding the correct structure of DNA was the so-called Chargaff ratios
Chargaff's rules
Chargaff's rules state that DNA from any cell of all organisms should have a 1:1 ratio of pyrimidine and purine bases and, more specifically, that the amount of guanine is equal to cytosine and the amount of adenine is equal to thymine. This pattern is found in both strands of the DNA...

, experimentally determined ratios of the nucleotide subunits of DNA: the amount of guanine
Guanine
Guanine is one of the four main nucleobases found in the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, the others being adenine, cytosine, and thymine . In DNA, guanine is paired with cytosine. With the formula C5H5N5O, guanine is a derivative of purine, consisting of a fused pyrimidine-imidazole ring system with...

 is equal to cytosine
Cytosine
Cytosine is one of the four main bases found in DNA and RNA, along with adenine, guanine, and thymine . It is a pyrimidine derivative, with a heterocyclic aromatic ring and two substituents attached . The nucleoside of cytosine is cytidine...

 and the amount of adenine
Adenine
Adenine is a nucleobase with a variety of roles in biochemistry including cellular respiration, in the form of both the energy-rich adenosine triphosphate and the cofactors nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide , and protein synthesis, as a chemical component of DNA...

 is equal to thymine
Thymine
Thymine is one of the four nucleobases in the nucleic acid of DNA that are represented by the letters G–C–A–T. The others are adenine, guanine, and cytosine. Thymine is also known as 5-methyluracil, a pyrimidine nucleobase. As the name suggests, thymine may be derived by methylation of uracil at...

. A visit by Erwin Chargaff
Erwin Chargaff
Erwin Chargaff was an American biochemist who emigrated to the United States during the Nazi era. Through careful experimentation, Chargaff discovered two rules that helped lead to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA...

 to England in 1952 reinforced the salience of this important fact for Watson and Crick. The significance of these ratios for the structure of DNA were not recognized until Watson, persisting in building structural models, realized that A:T and C:G pairs are structurally similar. In particular, the length of each base pair is the same. Chargaff had also pointed out to Watson that, in the aqueous, saline environment of the cell, the predominant tautomers of the pyrimidine (C and T) bases would be the amine and keto configurations of cytosine and thymine, rather than the imino and enol forms that Crick and Watson had assumed. They consulted Jerry Donohue
Jerry Donohue
Jerry Donohue was an American theoretical and physical chemist. He is best remembered for steering James D. Watson and Francis Crick towards the correct structure of DNA with some crucial information.-Early career:...

 who confirmed the most likely structures of the nucleotide bases. The base pairs are held together by hydrogen bonds, the same non-covalent interaction that stabilize the protein α-helix. The correct structures were essential for the positioning of the hydrogen bonds. These insights led Watson to deduce the true biological relationships of the A:T and C:G pairs. After the discovery of the hydrogen bonded A:T and C:G pairs, Watson and Crick soon had their anti-parallel, double helical model of DNA, with the hydrogen bonds at the core of the helix providing a way to "unzip" the two complementary strands for easy replication
DNA replication
DNA replication is a biological process that occurs in all living organisms and copies their DNA; it is the basis for biological inheritance. The process starts with one double-stranded DNA molecule and produces two identical copies of the molecule...

: the last key requirement for a likely model of the genetic molecule. As important as Crick's contributions to the discovery of the double helical DNA model were, he stated that without the chance to collaborate with Watson, he would not have found the structure by himself.

Crick did tentatively attempt to perform some experiments on nucleotide base pairing, but he was more of a theoretical than an experimental biologist. There was another near-discovery of the base pairing rules in early 1952. Crick had started to think about interactions between the bases. He asked John Griffith to try to calculate attractive interactions between the DNA bases from chemical principles and quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

. Griffith's best guess was that A:T and G:C were attractive pairs. At that time, Crick was not aware of Chargaff's rules and he made little of Griffith's calculations, although it did start him thinking about complementary replication. Identification of the correct base-pairing rules (A-T, G-C) was achieved by Watson "playing" with cardboard cut-out models of the nucleotide bases, much in the manner that Linus Pauling had discovered the protein alpha helix a few years earlier. The Watson and Crick discovery of the DNA double helix structure was made possible by their willingness to combine theory, modeling and experimental results (albeit mostly done by others) to achieve their goal.

The DNA double helix structure proposed by Watson and Crick was based upon "Watson-Crick" bonds between the four bases most frequently found in DNA (A, C, T, G) and RNA (A, C, U, G). However, later research showed that triple-stranded, quadruple-stranded and other more complex DNA molecular structures required Hoogstein bonds. In addition, the entire field of synthetic biology
Synthetic biology
Synthetic biology is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a variety of definitions...

 began with researchers such as Erik T. Kool, where bases other than A, C, T and G are used in a synthetic DNA. In addition to synthetic DNA there are also attempts to construct synthetic codons, synthetic endonucleases, synthetic proteins and synthetic zinc fingers. Using synthetic DNA, instead of there being 43 codons, if there are n new bases there could be as many as n3 codons. Research is currently being done to see if codons can be expanded to more than 3 bases. These new codons can code for new amino acids. These synthetic molecules can be used not only in medicine, but in creation of new materials.

The discovery was made on 28 February 1953; the first Watson/Crick paper appeared in Nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 on 25 April 1953. Sir Lawrence Bragg, the director of the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

, where Watson and Crick worked, gave a talk at Guys Hospital Medical School in London on Thursday 14 May 1953 which resulted in an article by Ritchie Calder in The News Chronicle
News Chronicle
The News Chronicle was a British daily newspaper. It ceased publication on 17 October 1960, being absorbed into the Daily Mail. Its offices were in Bouverie Street, off Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 8DP, England.-Daily Chronicle:...

 of London, on Friday 15 May 1953, entitled "Why You Are You. Nearer Secret of Life." The news reached readers of The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 the next day; Victor K. McElheny, in researching his biography, "Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution", found a clipping of a six-paragraph New York Times article written from London and dated 16 May 1953 with the headline "Form of `Life Unit' in Cell Is Scanned." The article ran in an early edition and was then pulled to make space for news deemed more important. (The New York Times subsequently ran a longer article on 12 June 1953). The Cambridge University undergraduate newspaper Varsity
Varsity (Cambridge)
Varsity is the oldest of Cambridge University's main student newspapers. It has been published continuously since 1947, and is one of only three fully independent student newspapers in the UK. It appears every Friday around Cambridge...

also ran its own short article on the discovery on Saturday 30 May 1953. Bragg's original announcement of the discovery at a Solvay conference
Solvay Conference
The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, located in Brussels, were founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912, following the historic invitation-only 1911 Conseil Solvay, the turning point in world physics...

 on proteins in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 on 8 April 1953 went unreported by the British press.

Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner, CH FRS is a South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate, shared with H...

, Jack Dunitz, Dorothy Hodgkin, Leslie Orgel
Leslie Orgel
Leslie Eleazer Orgel FRS was a British chemist.Born in London, England, Orgel received his B.A. in chemistry with first class honours from Oxford University in 1949...

, and Beryl M. Oughton, were some of the first people in April 1953 to see the model of the structure of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, constructed by Crick and Watson; at the time they were working at Oxford University
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

's Chemistry Department. All were impressed by the new DNA model, especially Brenner who subsequently worked with Crick at Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in the Cavendish Laboratory
Cavendish Laboratory
The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the university's School of Physical Sciences. It was opened in 1874 as a teaching laboratory....

 and the new Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
The Laboratory of Molecular Biology is a research institute in Cambridge, England, which was at the forefront of the revolution in molecular biology which occurred in the 1950–60s, since then it remains a major medical research laboratory with a much broader focus.-Early beginnings: 1947-61:Max...

. Orgel also later worked with Crick at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a premier independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine; among the founding consultants were Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. Building...

.


Molecular biology


In 1954, at the age of 37, Crick completed his Ph.D. thesis: "X-Ray Diffraction: Polypeptides and Proteins" and received his degree. Crick then worked in the laboratory of David Harker at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute
Polytechnic University of New York
The Polytechnic Institute of New York University, often referred to as Polytechnic Institute of NYU, NYU Polytechnic, or NYU-Poly, is the engineering and applied sciences affiliate of New York University...

, where he continued to develop his skills in the analysis of X-ray diffraction
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 data for proteins, working primarily on ribonuclease
Ribonuclease
Ribonuclease is a type of nuclease that catalyzes the degradation of RNA into smaller components. Ribonucleases can be divided into endoribonucleases and exoribonucleases, and comprise several sub-classes within the EC 2.7 and 3.1 classes of enzymes.-Function:All organisms studied contain...

 and the mechanisms of protein synthesis. David Harker, the American X-ray crystallographer, was described as "the John Wayne of crystallography" by Vittorio Luzzati, a crystallographer at the Centre for Molecular Genetics in Gif-sur-Yvette near Paris, who had worked with Rosalind Franklin.

After the discovery of the double helix model of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, Crick's interests quickly turned to the biological implications of the structure. In 1953, Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

 and Crick published another article in Nature which stated: "it therefore seems likely that the precise sequence of the bases is the code that carries the genetical information".

In 1956, Crick and Watson speculated on the structure of small virus
Virus
A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea...

es. They suggested that spherical viruses such as Tomato bushy stunt virus
Tomato bushy stunt virus
Tomato bushy stunt virus is a tombusvirus first reported in tomatoes in 1935. Depending upon the host, TBSV causes stunting of growth, leaf mottling, and deformed or absent fruit. The virus is transmitted manually through the use of contaminated cutting tools...

 had icosahedral symmetry and were made from 60 identical subunits.

After his short time in New York, Crick returned to Cambridge where he worked until 1976, at which time he moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Crick engaged in several X-ray diffraction collaborations such as one with Alexander Rich
Alexander Rich
Alexander Rich, MD is a biologist and biophysicist. He is the William Thompson Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at MIT and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rich earned both an A.B. and an M.D. from Harvard University. He was a post-doc of Linus Pauling along with James Watson...

 on the structure of collagen
Collagen
Collagen is a group of naturally occurring proteins found in animals, especially in the flesh and connective tissues of mammals. It is the main component of connective tissue, and is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up about 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content...

. However, Crick was quickly drifting away from continued work related to his expertise in the interpretation of X-ray diffraction patterns of proteins.

George Gamow
George Gamow
George Gamow , born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov , was a Russian-born theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He discovered alpha decay via quantum tunneling and worked on radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, cosmic microwave...

 established a group of scientists interested in the role of RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

 as an intermediary between DNA as the genetic storage molecule in the nucleus of cells and the synthesis of proteins in the cytoplasm
Cytoplasm
The cytoplasm is a small gel-like substance residing between the cell membrane holding all the cell's internal sub-structures , except for the nucleus. All the contents of the cells of prokaryote organisms are contained within the cytoplasm...

 (the RNA Tie Club
RNA Tie Club
The idea of American biologist James D. Watson and Russian-American physicist George Gamow, the RNA Tie Club was a scientific gentleman's club of select members who shared their ideas on how to 'read' the message inside DNA and understand how it relates to proteins...

). It was clear to Crick that there had to be a code by which a short sequence of nucleotides would specify a particular amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 in a newly synthesized protein. In 1956, Crick wrote an informal paper about the genetic coding
Genetic code
The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material is translated into proteins by living cells....

 problem for the small group of scientists in Gamow's RNA group. In this article, Crick reviewed the evidence supporting the idea that there was a common set of about 20 amino acids used to synthesize proteins. Crick proposed that there was a corresponding set of small "adaptor molecules" that would hydrogen bond
Hydrogen bond
A hydrogen bond is the attractive interaction of a hydrogen atom with an electronegative atom, such as nitrogen, oxygen or fluorine, that comes from another molecule or chemical group. The hydrogen must be covalently bonded to another electronegative atom to create the bond...

 to short sequences of a nucleic acid, and also link to one of the amino acids. He also explored the many theoretical possibilities by which short nucleic acid sequences might code for the 20 amino acids.


During the mid-to-late 1950s Crick was very much intellectually engaged in sorting out the mystery of how proteins are synthesized. By 1958, Crick's thinking had matured and he could list in an orderly way all of the key features of the protein synthesis process:
  • genetic information stored in the sequence of DNA molecules
  • a "messenger" RNA molecule to carry the instructions for making one protein to the cytoplasm
  • adaptor molecules ("they might contain nucleotides") to match short sequences of nucleotides in the RNA messenger molecules to specific amino acids
  • ribonucleic-protein complexes that catalyse the assembly of amino acids into proteins according to the messenger RNA


The adaptor molecules were eventually shown to be tRNAs and the catalytic "ribonucleic-protein complexes" became known as ribosome
Ribosome
A ribosome is a component of cells that assembles the twenty specific amino acid molecules to form the particular protein molecule determined by the nucleotide sequence of an RNA molecule....

s. An important step was later realization (in 1960) that the messenger RNA
Messenger RNA
Messenger RNA is a molecule of RNA encoding a chemical "blueprint" for a protein product. mRNA is transcribed from a DNA template, and carries coding information to the sites of protein synthesis: the ribosomes. Here, the nucleic acid polymer is translated into a polymer of amino acids: a protein...

 was not the same as the ribosomal RNA
Ribosomal RNA
Ribosomal ribonucleic acid is the RNA component of the ribosome, the enzyme that is the site of protein synthesis in all living cells. Ribosomal RNA provides a mechanism for decoding mRNA into amino acids and interacts with tRNAs during translation by providing peptidyl transferase activity...

. None of this, however, answered the fundamental theoretical question of the exact nature of the genetic code. In his 1958 article, Crick speculated, as had others, that a triplet of nucleotides could code for an amino acid. Such a code might be "degenerate", with 4×4×4=64 possible triplets of the four nucleotide subunits while there were only 20 amino acids. Some amino acids might have multiple triplet codes. Crick also explored other codes in which, for various reasons, only some of the triplets were used, "magically" producing just the 20 needed combinations. Experimental results were needed; theory alone could not decide the nature of the code. Crick also used the term "central dogma
Central dogma of molecular biology
The central dogma of molecular biology was first articulated by Francis Crick in 1958 and re-stated in a Nature paper published in 1970:In other words, the process of producing proteins is irreversible: a protein cannot be used to create DNA....

" to summarize an idea that implies that genetic information flow between macromolecules would be essentially one-way:
DNA → RNA → Protein


Some critics thought that by using the word "dogma", Crick was implying that this was a rule that could not be questioned, but all he really meant was that it was a compelling idea without much solid evidence to support it. In his thinking about the biological processes linking DNA genes to proteins, Crick made explicit the distinction between the materials involved, the energy required, and the information flow. Crick was focused on this third component (information) and it became the organizing principle of what became known as molecular biology
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

. Crick had by this time become a highly influential theoretical molecular biologist.

Proof that the genetic code is a degenerate triplet code finally came from genetics experiments, some of which were performed by Crick. The details of the code came mostly from work by Marshall Nirenberg
Marshall Warren Nirenberg
Marshall Warren Nirenberg was an American biochemist and geneticist of Jewish origin. He shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 with Har Gobind Khorana and Robert W. Holley for "breaking the genetic code" and describing how it operates in protein synthesis...

 and others who synthesized synthetic RNA molecules and used them as templates for in vitro
In vitro
In vitro refers to studies in experimental biology that are conducted using components of an organism that have been isolated from their usual biological context in order to permit a more detailed or more convenient analysis than can be done with whole organisms. Colloquially, these experiments...

protein synthesis.

Controversy about using King's College London's results


An enduring controversy has been generated by Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

 and Crick's use of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 X-ray diffraction
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 data collected by Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite...

 and her student Raymond Gosling
Raymond Gosling
Raymond Gosling is a distinguished scientist who worked with both Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College London in deducing the structure of DNA, under the direction of Sir John Randall. His other KCL colleagues included Alex Stokes and Herbert Wilson.-Early years:He was born in...

. The controversy arose from the fact that some of these data were shown to them, without her knowledge, by Maurice Wilkins and Max Perutz
Max Perutz
Max Ferdinand Perutz, OM, CH, CBE, FRS was an Austrian-born British molecular biologist, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew, for their studies of the structures of hemoglobin and globular proteins...

. Her experimental results provided estimates of the water content of DNA crystals, and these results were most consistent with the three sugar-phosphate backbones being on the outside of the molecule. Franklin personally told Crick and Watson that the backbones had to be on the outside, whilst vehemently stating that her data did not force one to conclude that DNA has a helical structure. Her identification of the space group
Space group
In mathematics and geometry, a space group is a symmetry group, usually for three dimensions, that divides space into discrete repeatable domains.In three dimensions, there are 219 unique types, or counted as 230 if chiral copies are considered distinct...

 for DNA crystals revealed to Crick that the DNA strands were antiparallel
Antiparallel (biochemistry)
In biochemistry, two molecules are antiparallel if they run side-by-side in opposite directions or when both strands are complimentary to each other....

, which helped Watson and Crick decide to look for DNA models with two antiparallel polynucleotide strands. The X-ray diffraction images collected by Franklin provided the best evidence for the helical nature of DNA—something she recognized as well as Watson and Crick according to a book by Anne Sayre. Franklin's experimental work proved important in Crick and Watson's development of the correct model.

Prior to publication of the double helix structure, Watson and Crick had little interaction with Franklin. Crick and Watson felt that they had benefited from collaborating with Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS was a New Zealand-born English physicist and molecular biologist, and Nobel Laureate whose research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar...

. They offered him a co-authorship on the article that first described the double helix structure of DNA. Wilkins turned down the offer, and was in part responsible for the terse character of the acknowledgment of experimental work done at King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

. Rather than make any of the DNA researchers at King's College co-authors on the Watson and Crick double helix article, the solution was to publish two additional papers from King's College along with the helix paper. Brenda Maddox
Brenda Maddox
Brenda Maddox FRSL is an American author, journalist, and biographer, who has lived in the UK since 1959.Born in Brockton, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, she graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English literature and also studied at the London School of Economics...

 suggested that because of the importance of her experimental results in Watson and Crick's model building and theoretical analysis, Franklin should have had her name on the original Watson and Crick paper in Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

. Franklin and Gosling submitted their own joint 'second' paper to Nature at the same time as Wilkins, Stokes, and Wilson submitted theirs (i.e. the 'third' paper on DNA).

Views on religion


Crick once joked, "Christianity may be OK between consenting adults in private but should not be taught to young children."

In his book Of Molecules and Men, Crick expressed his views on the relationship between science and religion. After suggesting that it would become possible for people to wonder if a computer
Computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

 might be programmed so as to have a soul, he wondered: at what point during biological evolution did the first organism have a soul? At what moment does a baby get a soul? Crick stated his view that the idea of a non-material soul that could enter a body and then persist after death is just that, an imagined idea. For Crick, the mind is a product of physical brain activity and the brain had evolved by natural means over millions of years. Crick felt that it was important that evolution by natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 be taught in schools and that it was regrettable that English schools had compulsory religious instruction. Crick felt that a new scientific world view was rapidly being established, and predicted that once the detailed workings of the brain were eventually revealed, erroneous Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 concepts about the nature of humans and the world would no longer be tenable; traditional conceptions of the "soul" would be replaced by a new understanding of the physical basis of mind. He was sceptical of organized religion, referring to himself as a sceptic and an agnostic with "a strong inclination towards atheism".

In 1960, Crick accepted a fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge, one factor being that the new college did not have a chapel. Sometime later a large donation was made to establish a chapel and the fellowship elected to accept it. Crick resigned his fellowship in protest.See also e.g. Telegraph Article

In October 1969, Crick participated in a celebration of the 100th year of the journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

. Crick attempted to make some predictions about what the next 30 years would hold for molecular biology. His speculations were later published in Nature. Near the end of the article, Crick briefly mentioned the search for life on other planets, but he held little hope that extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 would be found by the year 2000. He also discussed what he described as a possible new direction for research, what he called "biochemical theology". Crick wrote, "So many people pray that one finds it hard to believe that they do not get some satisfaction from it".

Crick suggested that it might be possible to find chemical changes in the brain that were molecular correlates of the act of prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

. He speculated that there might be a detectable change in the level of some neurotransmitter
Neurotransmitter
Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse. Neurotransmitters are packaged into synaptic vesicles clustered beneath the membrane on the presynaptic side of a synapse, and are released into the synaptic cleft, where they bind to...

 or neurohormone
Neurohormone
A neurohormone is any hormone produced and released by neurons.Examples include:*Thyrotropin-releasing hormone *Gonadotropin-releasing hormone *Adrenocorticotropin-releasing hormone*Oxytocin*Antidiuretic hormone *Epinephrine...

 when people pray. Crick may have been imagining substances such as dopamine that are released by the brain under certain conditions and produce rewarding sensations. Crick's suggestion that there might someday be a new science of "biochemical theology" seems to have been realized under an alternative name: there is now the new field of neurotheology
Neurotheology
Neurotheology, also known as spiritual neuroscience, is the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena....

. Crick's view of the relationship between science and religion continued to play a role in his work as he made the transition from molecular biology
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

 research into theoretical neuroscience.

He asked in 1998, "And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically? ... And what would be more important than to find our true place in the universe by removing one by one these unfortunate vestiges of earlier beliefs?" (What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery)

Directed panspermia


During the 1960s, Crick became concerned with the origins of the genetic code. In 1966, Crick took the place of Leslie Orgel
Leslie Orgel
Leslie Eleazer Orgel FRS was a British chemist.Born in London, England, Orgel received his B.A. in chemistry with first class honours from Oxford University in 1949...

 at a meeting where Orgel was to talk about the origin of life. Crick speculated about possible stages by which an initially simple code with a few amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 types might have evolved into the more complex code used by existing organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s. At that time, everyone thought of protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s as the only kind of enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

s and ribozyme
Ribozyme
A ribozyme is an RNA molecule with a well defined tertiary structure that enables it to catalyze a chemical reaction. Ribozyme means ribonucleic acid enzyme. It may also be called an RNA enzyme or catalytic RNA. Many natural ribozymes catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own...

s had not yet been found. Many molecular biologists were puzzled by the problem of the origin of a protein replicating system that is as complex as that which exists in organisms currently inhabiting Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. In the early 1970s, Crick and Orgel further speculated about the possibility that the production of living systems from molecule
Molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

s may have been a very rare event in the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

, but once it had developed it could be spread by intelligent life forms using space travel
Spaceflight
Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

 technology, a process they called “Directed Panspermia”. In a retrospective article, Crick and Orgel noted that they had been overly pessimistic about the chances of abiogenesis
Abiogenesis
Abiogenesis or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes, and the method by which life on Earth arose...

 on Earth when they had assumed that some kind of self-replicating protein system was the molecular origin of life.

Crick addressed the Origin of Protein Synthesis in a paper with Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner, CH FRS is a South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate, shared with H...

, Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug
Sir Aaron Klug, OM, PRS is a Lithuanian-born British chemist and biophysicist, and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.-Biography:Klug was...

, and George Pieczenik. In this paper, based on Pieczenik's work, they speculate that code constraints on nucleotide sequences allow protein synthesis without the need for a ribosome. It, however, requires a five base binding between the mRNA and tRNA with a flip of the anti-codon creating a triplet coding, even though it is a five base physical interaction. Thomas H. Jukes
Thomas H. Jukes
Thomas Hughes Jukes was a British-American biologist known for his work in nutrition, molecular evolution, and for his public engagement with controversial scientific issues, including DDT, vitamin C and creationism...

 pointed out that the code constraints on the mRNA sequence required for this translation mechanism is still preserved.

Neuroscience, other interests



Crick's period at Cambridge was the pinnacle of his long scientific career, but he left Cambridge in 1977 after 30 years, having been offered (and having refused) the Mastership of Gonville & Caius. James Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

 claimed at a Cambridge conference marking the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 in 2003: "Now perhaps it's a pretty well kept secret that one of the most uninspiring acts of Cambridge University over this past century was to turn down Francis Crick when he applied to be the Professor of Genetics
Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics
The Arthur Balfour Professorship of Genetics is one of the senior professorships in genetics at the University of Cambridge, founded in 1912.The chair was endowed by Reginald Baliol Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, according to whom the money was "placed in [his] hands" by an anonymous benefactor...

, in 1958. Now there may have been a series of arguments, which lead them to reject Francis. It was really saying, don't push us to the frontier." The apparently "pretty well kept secret" had already been recorded in Soraya De Chadarevian's "Designs For Life: Molecular Biology After World War II", published by CUP in 2002. His major contribution to molecular biology
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

 in Cambridge is well documented in The History of the University of Cambridge: Volume 4 (1870 to 1990), which was published by Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

 in 1992.

According to the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

's genetics department official website, the electors of the professorship could not reach consensus, prompting the intervention of then University Vice-Chancellor Lord Adrian
Edgar Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian
Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian OM PRS was a British electrophysiologist and recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, won jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington for work on the function of neurons....

. Lord Adrian first offered the professorship to a compromise candidate, Guido Pontecorvo
Guido Pontecorvo
Guido Pontecorvo ForMemRS was an Italian-born geneticist.-Career:He fled to Britain in 1938.* Institute of Animal Genetics, University of Edinburgh, 1938-40 and 1944-45...

, who refused, and is said to have offered it then to Crick, who also refused.

In 1976, Crick took a sabbatical year
Sabbatical year
Sabbatical or a sabbatical is a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible...

 at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is a premier independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla, California. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine; among the founding consultants were Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. Building...

 in La Jolla, California. Crick had been a nonresident fellow of the Institute since 1960. Crick wrote, "I felt at home in Southern California." After the sabbatical, Crick left Cambridge in order to continue working at the Salk Institute. He was also a professor at the University of California, San Diego
University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego, commonly known as UCSD or UC San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, United States...

. He taught himself neuroanatomy
Neuroanatomy
Neuroanatomy is the study of the anatomy and organization of the nervous system. In contrast to animals with radial symmetry, whose nervous system consists of a distributed network of cells, animals with bilateral symmetry have segregated, defined nervous systems, and thus we can begin to speak of...

 and studied many other areas of neuroscience
Neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

 research. It took him several years to disengage from molecular biology because exciting discoveries continued to be made, including the discovery of alternative splicing
Alternative splicing
Alternative splicing is a process by which the exons of the RNA produced by transcription of a gene are reconnected in multiple ways during RNA splicing...

 and the discovery of restriction enzyme
Restriction enzyme
A Restriction Enzyme is an enzyme that cuts double-stranded DNA at specific recognition nucleotide sequences known as restriction sites. Such enzymes, found in bacteria and archaea, are thought to have evolved to provide a defense mechanism against invading viruses...

s, which helped make possible genetic engineering
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

. Eventually, in the 1980s, Crick was able to devote his full attention to his other interest, consciousness
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

. His autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 book, What Mad Pursuit
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery is a book published in 1988 and written by Francis Crick, the English co-discoverer in 1953 of the structure of DNA, perhaps the greatest discovery ever made in molecular biology...

, includes a description of why he left molecular biology and switched to neuroscience.

Upon taking up work in theoretical neuroscience, Crick was struck by several things:
  • there were many isolated subdisciplines within neuroscience with little contact between them
  • many people who were interested in behaviour treated the brain as a black box
  • consciousness was viewed as a taboo
    Taboo
    A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

     subject by many neurobiologists


Crick hoped he might aid progress in neuroscience by promoting constructive interactions between specialists from the many different subdisciplines concerned with consciousness. He even collaborated with neurophilosophers
Neurophilosophy
Neurophilosophy or philosophy of neuroscience is the interdisciplinary study of neuroscience and philosophy. Work in this field is often separated into two distinct methods. The first method attempts to solve problems in philosophy of mind with empirical information from the neurosciences...

 such as Patricia Churchland
Patricia Churchland
Patricia Smith Churchland is a Canadian-American philosopher noted for her contributions to neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind. She has been a Professor at the University of California, San Diego since 1984...

. In 1983, as a result of their studies of computer models of neural networks, Crick and Mitchison proposed that the function of REM sleep is to remove certain modes of interactions in networks of cells in the mammalian cerebral cortex; they called this hypothetical process 'reverse learning
Reverse learning
Reverse learning is a neurobiological theory of dreams. In 1983, in a paper published in the famous science journal Nature, Crick and Mitchison's reverse learning model likened the process of dreaming to a computer in that it was "off-line" during dreaming or the REM phase of sleep...

' or 'unlearning'. In the final phase of his career, Crick established a collaboration with Christof Koch
Christof Koch
Christof Koch is an American neuroscientist working on the neural basis of consciousness. He is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at California Institute of Technology, where he has been since 1986...

 that lead to publication of a series of articles on consciousness during the period spanning from 1990 to 2005. Crick made the strategic decision to focus his theoretical investigation of consciousness on how the brain generates visual awareness
Awareness
Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of...

 within a few hundred milliseconds of viewing a scene. Crick and Koch proposed that consciousness seems so mysterious because it involves very short-term memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

 processes that are as yet poorly understood. Crick also published a book describing how neurobiology had reached a mature enough stage so that consciousness could be the subject of a unified effort to study it at the molecular, cellular and behavioural levels. Crick's book The Astonishing Hypothesis
The Astonishing Hypothesis
The Astonishing Hypothesisis a 1994 book by scientist Francis Crick about consciousness. Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the molecular structure of DNA in 1953, later became a theorist for neurobiology and the study of the brain...

made the argument that neuroscience now had the tools required to begin a scientific study of how brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

s produce conscious experiences. Crick was skeptical about the value of computational models
Connectionism
Connectionism is a set of approaches in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy of mind, that models mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks of simple units...

 of mental function that are not based on details about brain structure and function.

Reactions to Crick and his work


Crick has widely been described as talkative, brash, and lacking modesty. His personality combined with his scientific accomplishments produced many opportunities for Crick to stimulate reactions from others, both inside and outside of the scientific world, which was the centre of his intellectual and professional life. Crick spoke rapidly, and rather loudly, and had an infectious and reverberating laugh, and a lively sense of humour. One colleague from the Salk Institute described him as "a brainstorming intellectual powerhouse with a mischievous smile.... Francis was never mean-spirited, just incisive. He detected microscopic flaws in logic. In a room full of smart scientists, Francis continually reearned his position as the heavyweight champ."

Eugenics


Crick occasionally expressed his views on eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

, usually in private letters. For example, Crick advocated a form of positive eugenics
Liberal eugenics
Liberal eugenics is an ideology which advocates the use of reproductive and genetic technologies where the choice of enhancing human characteristics and capacities is left to the individual preferences of parents acting as consumers, rather than the public health policies of the state.-History:The...

 in which wealthy parents would be encouraged to have more children. He once remarked, "In the long run, it is unavoidable that society will begin to worry about the character of the next generation... It is not a subject at the moment which we can tackle easily because people have so many religious beliefs and until we have a more uniform view of ourselves I think it would be risky to try and do anything in the way of eugenics... I would be astonished if, in the next 100 or 200 years, society did not come round to the view that they would have to try to improve the next generation in some extent or one way or another."

Creationism


It has been suggested by some observers that Crick's speculation about panspermia "fits neatly into the intelligent design concept." Crick's name was raised in this context in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts testing a public school district policy that required the teaching of intelligent design...

 trial over the teaching of intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

. Crick was, however, a firm critic of Young Earth creationism
Young Earth creationism
Young Earth creationism is the religious belief that Heavens, Earth, and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic God during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago...

. In the 1987 United States Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard
Edwards v. Aguillard
Edwards v. Aguillard, was a legal case about the teaching of creationism that was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1987. The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law...

, Crick joined a group of other Nobel laureates who advised that, "'Creation-science' simply has no place in the public-school science classroom." Crick was also an advocate for the establishment of Darwin Day
Darwin Day
Darwin Day is a recently instituted celebration intended to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on February 12, 1809. The day is used to highlight Darwin's contribution to science and to promote science in general.-History:...

 as a British national holiday.

Recognition


In addition to his third share of the 1962 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, he received many awards and honours, including the Royal and Copley medals of the Royal Society (1972 and 1975), and also the Order of Merit (on 27 November 1991); he refused an offer of a CBE in 1963 and later refused an offer of a knighthood, but was often referred to in error as 'Sir Francis Crick' and even on occasions as 'Lord Crick.'

The award of Nobel prizes to John Kendrew and Max Perutz, and to Crick, Watson, and Wilkins was satirised in a short sketch in the BBC TV programme That Was The Week That Was
That Was The Week That Was
That Was The Week That Was, also known as TW3, is a satirical television comedy programme that was shown on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963. It was devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost...

 with the Nobel Prizes being referred to as 'The Alfred Nobel Peace Pools.'

The Francis Crick Prize Lectures at The Royal Society, London


The Francis Crick Lecture
Francis Crick Lecture
The Francis Crick Lecture is a prize lecture of the Royal Society established in 2003 with an endowment from Sydney Brenner, the late Francis Crick's close friend and former colleague. It is delivered annually in biology, particularly the areas which Francis Crick worked , and also to theoretical...

 was established in 2003 following an endowment by his former colleague, Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner, CH FRS is a South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate, shared with H...

, joint winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 in Physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 and Medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

. The lecture is delivered annually in any field of biological sciences, with preference given to the areas in which Francis Crick himself worked. Importantly, the lectureship is aimed at younger scientists, ideally under 40, or whose career progression corresponds to this age.

The Francis Crick Institute


The Francis Crick Institute is a planned £660,000,000 biomedical research centre to be located in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. The Francis Crick Institute is a partnership between Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is a cancer research and awareness charity in the United Kingdom, formed on 4 February 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Its aim is to reduce the number of deaths from cancer. As the world's largest independent cancer...

, Imperial College London
Imperial College London
Imperial College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, specialising in science, engineering, business and medicine...

, King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

, the Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

, University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 (UCL) and the Wellcome Trust
Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust was established in 1936 as an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. With an endowment of around £13.9 billion, it is the United Kingdom's largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research...

. Once completed in 2015, it will be the biggest centre for biomedical research and innovation in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

The Francis Crick Graduate Lectures at the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 Graduate School of Biological, Medical and Veterinary Sciences hosts The Francis Crick Graduate Lectures. The first two lectures were by John Gurdon
John Gurdon
Sir John Bertrand Gurdon , FRS is a British developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation and cloning. He was recently awarded the Lasker Award.-Career:...

 and Tim Hunt
Tim Hunt
Sir Richard Timothy "Tim" Hunt, FRS is an English biochemist.Hunt was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Leland H...

.

Other Honors

  • The inscription on the helices of a DNA
    DNA
    Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

     sculpture (which was donated by James Watson) outside Clare College
    Clare College, Cambridge
    Clare College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1326, making it the second-oldest surviving college of the University after Peterhouse. Clare is famous for its chapel choir and for its gardens on "the Backs"...

    's Thirkill Court, Cambridge
    Cambridge
    The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

    , England reads: "The structure of DNA was discovered in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson while Watson lived here at Clare." and on the base: "The double helix model was supported by the work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins."

  • Another sculpture entitled Discovery, was installed on Tuesday, 13 December 2005 in Abington Street, Northampton. According to the late Mr Lynn Wilson, chairman of the Wilson Foundation, "The sculpture celebrates the life of a world class scientist who must surely be considered the greatest Northamptonian of all time — by discovering DNA he unlocked the whole future of genetics and the alphabet of life."

  • Westminster City Council unveiled a green plaque to Francis Crick on the front façade of 56 St George's Square, Pimlico, London SW1 on 20 June 2007; Crick lived in the first floor flat, together with Robert Dougall
    Robert Dougall
    Robert Dougall MBE was a British broadcaster and ornithologist, mainly known as a newsreader and announcer.-Television news:...

     of BBC radio and later TV fame, a former Royal Navy associate.

  • In addition, Crick was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the International Academy of Humanism
    International Academy of Humanism
    The International Academy of Humanism is a programme of the Council for Secular Humanism. It was established to recognize great humanists and disseminate humanist thinking. According to its declared mission, members of the academy are devoted to free inquiry, are committed to a scientific outlook,...

    , and a Fellow of CSICOP.

  • A sculpted bust of Francis Crick by John Sherrill Houser
    John Sherrill Houser
    John Sherrill Houser is an American painter and sculptor. He was born in Rapid City, South Dakota where his father, Ivan Houser, was assistant sculptor to Gutzon Borglum in the early years of carving Mount Rushmore...

    , which incorporates the DNA Double Helix, is currently nearing completion in the artist's studio in New Mexico, US for possible display in Cambridge.

  • The Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences of the American Philosophical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications,...

     (2001), together with James D. Watson
    James D. Watson
    James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

    .

Books by Francis Crick

  • Of Molecules and Men (Prometheus Books, 2004; original edition 1967) ISBN 1-59102-185-5
  • Life Itself (Simon & Schuster, 1981) ISBN 0-671-25562-2
  • What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery
    What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery
    What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery is a book published in 1988 and written by Francis Crick, the English co-discoverer in 1953 of the structure of DNA, perhaps the greatest discovery ever made in molecular biology...

    (Basic Books reprint edition, 1990) ISBN 0-465-09138-5
  • The Astonishing Hypothesis
    The Astonishing Hypothesis
    The Astonishing Hypothesisis a 1994 book by scientist Francis Crick about consciousness. Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the molecular structure of DNA in 1953, later became a theorist for neurobiology and the study of the brain...

    : The Scientific Search For The Soul
    (Scribner reprint edition, 1995) ISBN 0-684-80158-2
  • Kreiseliana: about and around Georg Kreisel
    Georg Kreisel
    Georg Kreisel FRS is an Austrian-born mathematical logician who has studied and worked in Great Britain and America. Kreisel came from a Jewish background; his family sent him to England before the Anschluss, where he studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge and then, during World War...

    ; ISBN 1-56881-061-X; 495 pages. For pages 25 – 32 "Georg Kreisel: a Few Personal Recollections" contributed by Francis Crick.

Books with references to Francis Crick and the structure of DNA discovery

  • John Bankston, Francis Crick and James D. Watson; Francis Crick and James Watson: Pioneers in DNA Research (Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2002) ISBN 1-58415-122-6.
  • Bill Bryson; A Short History of Nearly Everything (Broadway Books, 2003) ISBN 0-7679-0817-1.
  • Soraya De Chadarevian; Designs For Life: Molecular Biology After World War II, CUP 2002, 444 pp; ISBN 0-521-57078-6.
  • Roderick Braithwaite. ""'Strikingly Alive', The History of the Mill Hill School Foundation 1807-2007; published Phillimore & Co. ISBN 9781860773303
  • Edwin Chargaff; Heraclitean Fire, Rockefeller Press, 1978.
  • S. Chomet (Ed.), "D.N.A. Genesis of a Discovery", 1994, Newman- Hemisphere Press, London
  • Dickerson, Richard E.; "Present at the Flood: How Structural Molecular Biology Came About", Sinauer, 2005; ISBN 0-878-93168-6.
  • Edward Edelson, "Francis Crick And James Watson: And the Building Blocks of Life"' Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-513971-2.
  • John Finch; 'A Nobel Fellow On Every Floor', Medical Research Council 2008, 381 pp, ISBN 978-1840469-40-0.
  • Hager, Thomas; "Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling", Simon & Schuster 1995; ISBN 0-684-80909-5
  • Graeme Hunter; Light Is A Messenger, the life and science of William Lawrence Bragg (Oxford University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-19-852921-X.
  • Horace Freeland Judson, "The Eighth Day of Creation. Makers of the Revolution in Biology"; Penguin Books 1995, first published by Jonathan Cape, 1977; ISBN 0-14-017800-7.
  • Errol C. Friedberg; "Sydney Brenner: A Biography", pub. CSHL Press October 2010, ISBN 0879699477.
  • Torsten Krude (Ed.); DNA Changing Science and Society (ISBN 0-521-82378-1) CUP 2003. (The Darwin Lectures for 2003, including one by Sir Aaron Klug on Rosalind Franklin's involvement in the determination of the structure of DNA).
  • Brenda Maddox
    Brenda Maddox
    Brenda Maddox FRSL is an American author, journalist, and biographer, who has lived in the UK since 1959.Born in Brockton, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, she graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English literature and also studied at the London School of Economics...

     Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, 2002. ISBN 0-00-655211-0.
  • Robert Olby
    Robert Olby
    Robert Cecil Olby is a research professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Formerly at the University of Leeds, UK, Robert Olby is known as a historian of 19th and 20th century biology, his special fields being genetics and molecular biology...

    ; The Path to The Double Helix: Discovery of DNA; first published in October 1974 by MacMillan, with foreword by Francis Crick; ISBN 0-486-68117-3; revised in 1994, with a 9-page postscript.
  • Robert Olby
    Robert Olby
    Robert Cecil Olby is a research professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Formerly at the University of Leeds, UK, Robert Olby is known as a historian of 19th and 20th century biology, his special fields being genetics and molecular biology...

    ; Oxford National Dictionary article: ‘Crick, Francis Harry Compton (1916–2004)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, January 2008.
  • Robert Olby
    Robert Olby
    Robert Cecil Olby is a research professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Formerly at the University of Leeds, UK, Robert Olby is known as a historian of 19th and 20th century biology, his special fields being genetics and molecular biology...

    ; "Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets", Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, ISBN 978-087969798-3, published on 25 August 2009.
  • Matt Ridley
    Matt Ridley
    Matthew White Ridley, FRSL, FMedSci is an English journalist, writer, biologist, and businessman.-Career:...

    ; Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives) first published in June 2006 in the US and then in the UK September 2006, by HarperCollins Publishers; 192 pp, ISBN 0-06-082333-X.
  • Anne Sayre. 1975. Rosalind Franklin and DNA. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-32044-8.
  • James D. Watson; The Double Helix
    The Double Helix
    The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA written by James D. Watson and published in 1968. It was and remains a controversial account...

    : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
    , Atheneum, 1980, ISBN 0-689-70602-2 (first published in 1968) is a very readable firsthand account of the research by Crick and Watson. The book also formed the basis of the award winning television dramatization Life Story by BBC Horizon (also broadcast as Race for the Double Helix).
  • James D. Watson; The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA; The Norton Critical Edition, which was published in 1980, edited by Gunther S. Stent: ISBN 0-393-01245-X.
  • James D. Watson; "Avoid boring people and other lessons from a life in science" New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-41284-4, 366pp.
  • Maurice Wilkins; The Third Man of the Double Helix: The Autobiography of Maurice Wilkins ISBN 0-19-860665-6.

See also

  • Crick, Brenner et al. experiment
    Crick, Brenner et al. experiment
    The Crick, Brenner, Barnett, Watts-Tobin experiment of 1961 was a scientific experiment performed in 1961 by Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, Leslie Barnett and R.J. Watts-Tobin. They demonstrated that three bases of DNA code for one amino acid in the genetic code...

  • Crick's wobble hypothesis
    Wobble base pair
    In molecular biology, a wobble base pair is a non-Watson-Crick base pairing between two nucleotides in RNA molecules. The four main wobble base pairs are guanine-uracil, inosine-uracil, inosine-adenine, and inosine-cytosine . The thermodynamic stability of a wobble base pair is comparable to that...

  • History of RNA biology
    History of RNA biology
    Numerous key discoveries in biology have emerged from studies of RNA , including seminal work in the fields of biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, molecular evolution and structural biology. As of 2010, 30 scientists have been awarded Nobel Prizes for experimental work that...

  • List of RNA biologists
  • Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids
    Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids
    The "Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid" was an article published by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in the scientific journal Nature in its 171st volume on pages 737–738 . It was the first publication which described the discovery of the double helix...

  • Neural correlates of consciousness
    Neural correlates of consciousness
    The neural correlates of consciousness constitute the minimal set of neuronal events and mechanisms sufficient for a specific conscious percept. Neuroscientists use empirical approaches to discover neural correlates of subjective phenomena...

  • Reverse learning
    Reverse learning
    Reverse learning is a neurobiological theory of dreams. In 1983, in a paper published in the famous science journal Nature, Crick and Mitchison's reverse learning model likened the process of dreaming to a computer in that it was "off-line" during dreaming or the REM phase of sleep...


Crick papers

  • Register of Francis Crick Personal Papers – MSS 660 Crick's personal papers at Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego
  • Francis Crick Archive — Papers by Francis Crick are available for study at the Wellcome Library
    Wellcome Library
    The Wellcome Library is founded on the collection formed by Sir Henry Wellcome , whose personal wealth allowed him to create one of the most ambitious collections of the 20th century. Henry Wellcome's interest was the history of medicine in a broad sense and included subjects like alchemy or...

    ’s Archives and Manuscripts department. These papers include those dealing with Crick’s career after he moved to the Salk Institute in San Diego. The Crick papers
  • Comprehensive list of pdf files of Crick's papers from 1950 to 1990 – National Library of Medicine.
  • Francis Crick papersNature
    Nature (journal)
    Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

    .com
  • http://www.intuition.org/txt/crick2.htm for Crick's comments on LSD
  • Manuscripts and Correspondence – Mark Bretscher Discovery of Crick's original scientific material in Cambridge, England.
  • Key Participants: Francis H. C. CrickLinus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History

Hear or see Crick


About his work


About his life


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