Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!

Francis Crick

Francis Crick Photo

The man who uncovered the biggest mystery of all living organisms, who answered the most crucial question of all living beings; who am I? The cornerstone of modern genetics and biology; Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on 8th June 1916 in Northampton, England.  His initial education was from Northampton Grammar and Mill Hill School, from where he went on to earn a Bachelors’ Degree in Science in 1937 from the University College London. His journey towards earning a Ph.D. in 1939 was interrupted by WWII which eventually diverted him towards working with the military and developing magnetic and acoustic mines. Greatly impressed by his abilities and work ethics, the head of Britain’s wartime scientific intelligence, Dr. R.V. Jones invited Crick to carry on his work with the military, but Crick, fortunately, opted to carry on his studies and explore the world of biology which he was quite unfamiliar with till then. Thanks to his decision to pursue education, which eventually not only earned him a Nobel Prize but also ended up enlightening the course of the entire human history forever by discovering the double-helix structure of the DNA strand.

Post-WWII between 1949-51, as Crick started researching the basic structure of DNA at the University of Cambridge Medical Research Council’s Cavendish Laboratory he was introduced to a brilliant American biologist, James Watson. The two men instantly identified as kindred spirits and joined hands to unravel the mysteries of DNA and its structure.  This momentous collaboration of two great minds eventually earned them the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

DNA Research

So what really set the ball rolling for Crick towards his research into the depths of genetics, is something written by Erwin Schrödinger—”How can the events of space and time which take place within the living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?”

On the insistence of James Watson, Crick and Watson set to work towards answering this crucial question. They believed that the answer to this question and the mystery behind the hereditary part of DNA could be gained from unraveling the basic structure of DNA.  They created a basic molecular structure showing the physical and chemical attributes of DNA with the help of X-ray diffraction.  Their model (which holds true even now) showed two intertwined spirals in a DNA quite like a twisted ladder (thus called the “double helix”). They deliberated that if the two strands of a DNA were to split from each other, each one would then replicate the basic pattern of its former partner to create new strands. This theory and following research became the blue print explaining the process of gene replication and the basis of chromosomes.

This research was greatly enhanced by the unrecognized work of a lesser known chemist named Rosalind Franklin. Crick and Watson’s research paper on the double-helical structure of DNA was published in the scientific journal Nature in 1953. Although Crick and Watson had acknowledged Franklin’s contribution to their findings in the footnotes for their article as; “stimulated by a general knowledge” of Franklin’s unpublished contributions, it was Watson, Crick, and Wilkins who went on to receive a Nobel Prize for this groundbreaking work in 1962. By then Franklin had already died of ovarian cancer. The three were also awarded a Lasker Foundation Award in 1960.

Due to his continuous contribution towards understanding the origin, structure, and nature of DNA, Crick was also awarded the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer of the French Academy of Sciences and the Award of Merit of the Gairdner Foundation. During his life, he authored: Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, explaining that the life we see thriving on Earth today may have been conceived on another planet. He also wrote What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery in 1988.

After explaining all the mysteries of life, Francis Crick died in California, on July 28, 2004.

Write About Francis Crick