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Great Scientists

Francis Crick

1916 - 2004

Francis Crick

Francis Crick was a physicist who worked with molecular biologist James Watson to discover the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. Their work heralded the 'coming of age' of the biological sciences, and permitted the later breaking of the 'code of life'.

  • Nationality
  • English

  • Subject
  • Biology, molecular biology

  • Fields
  • physics, biophysics, neuroscience

  • Distinctions
  • 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (with his collaborator, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins) for "their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".

  • Publications
  • Discovery of the structure of DNA, deoxyribose nucleic acid, and the relationships of the four bases. Nature April 25, 1953 (Francis Crick and James Watson).

  • Theories
  • Discovery of the structure of DNA, deoxyribose nucleic acid, and the relationships of the four bases.

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Crick and Watson's work depended greatly on Rosalind Franklin's groundbreaking crystallography photographs of DNA structures.

Many people worked on determining the DNA structure. A co-Nobel laureate, Maurice Wilkins, worked in the laboratory of Rosalind Franklin, herself a contender for the Nobel Prize, if she had not tragically died in 1958 of cancer. She had taken the famous 'helix chrystallography photo' of an x-ray diffraction pattern of strands of DNA, which permitted Crick and Watson to decipher the DNA structure. Some acrimony resulted, since Franklin felt she had been sidelined in the press furore following the publication.

The concluding sentence of Crick and Watson's 1953 paper is: "The significance of this structure has not escaped us." A justly prophetic, if massively understated conclusion!