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Francis Crick, a founding father of genetics, has died

30 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 269

He has been described as 'the Charles Darwin of the 20th century' by Professor Steve Jones of University College London and as 'the dominant hero of the heroic age of molecular biology' by Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University. He was a Nobel Prize winner, a Fellow of the Royal Society and was appointed to the Order of Merit. Sadly, on Wednesday 28th July at the age of 88, Francis Crick died of colon cancer, in a hospital near his home in San Diego, US.

Crick helped answer three of the greatest questions of biology: the structure of DNA; the way in which DNA stores information; and the way the information encoded in DNA is used. It was in partnership with James Watson at Cavendish College, Cambridge, in 1953 that Crick made the first of these discoveries. Using data from research carried out by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin and a hefty dose of imagination, Crick and Watson worked out the structure of DNA: the double helix.

The double helix immediately suggested a way in which information was stored, in the sequence of DNA bases, and a mechanism by which the information could be passed on. Crick famously wrote, 'it has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing that we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material'. For this discovery, Crick, Watson and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize for Medicine 1962; Franklin, however, had died four years previously.

Crick's work did not end there. He and Sydney Brenner cracked the DNA code, working out the sequences of DNA bases that correspond to the amino acids used to make protein. Later he moves to San Diego, taking up a position at the Salk Institute, studying consciousness. He wrote a book, The Astonishing Hypothesis, explaining his theory on consciousness: that it is solely the product of cells in the brain.

Watson, who remained friends with Crick after their productive partnership in the 1950s, said in tribute, 'I will always remember Francis for his extraordinarily focused intelligence and for the many ways he showed me kindness'.

Francis Crick
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BBC News Online |  29 July 2004
29 April 2013 - by Purvi Shah 
A memorial to Francis Crick has been unveiled at his former college at the University of Cambridge to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of the structure of DNA...
15 April 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
The Nobel prize won by Francis Crick, a British scientist, for his part in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, and a handwritten letter recounting this discovery to his 12-year-old son, have been sold for over $8 million this week....
17 September 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
It is not often that you get the chance attend a seminar organised by an institution that is still under construction. Due to open in 2015, the building that will house the Francis Crick Institute currently comprises a rudimentary basement and ground floor, a handful of towering cranes and a swanky visitor centre...
6 April 2010 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
This small session, convened in the Wellcome Trust's Library last Wednesday, was the tale of two Francis's. The discussion highlighted the lives of, and drew on the similarities between, Francis Galton - who coined the term eugenics - and Francis Crick - who determined the structure of DNA with James Watson...
7 October 2004 - by BioNews 
Maurice Wilkins, the scientist who shared a Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and James Watson for working out the structure of DNA, has died. Wilkins was awarded the prize in 1962, following his work at King's College London, in which he used X-ray techniques to show that the DNA molecule...
28 April 2003 - by BioNews 
James Watson addressed a celebration dinner in London last Wednesday, held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the DNA double helix. The 3D structure of DNA, which was discovered by Watson along with Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, was published in Nature on 25 April...
3 March 2003 - by BioNews 
Last week saw the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) double helix. On Saturday 28th February 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick told customers drinking at The Eagle pub in Cambridge that they had found 'the secret of life'. Their work, along with that of Rosalind...
10 December 2001 - by BioNews 
The entire scientific archive of Francis Crick - one of the two British men who discovered the double-helical structure of DNA - is to be displayed in London. The Wellcome Trust has bought the archive, which includes letters, research papers and laboratory notebooks, for £1.8 million. Francis Crick was negotiating with a...
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