Francis Crick – DNA Pioneer

Francis Crick was one half of the team that made one of the biggest ever discoveries in biology. It earned them the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine.

    Crick was born on the 8th June 1916 in Northampton, England. His education and interest in science and in particular, biophysics, was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He was recruited to help design magnetic mines to be used by the Royal Navy against enemy ships.

Francis Crick

    In 1947 he returned to Cambridge University to further his research and two years later transferred to the Cambridge Medical Research Council Unit which was located within the Cavendish Laboratories. He began working on the structure of large molecules within biological organisms. By a stroke of good fortune, scientist, James Watson, arrived at the laboratory from the USA. His interest was in the structure of nucleic acids and in particular deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA.

    It was thought that it played an important part in the hereditary determination of a cell’s structure and function. The goal was to construct a three-dimensional model of DNA and this brought the project into Crick’s area of expertise.

    Construction of this model was no easy matter. They first utilised X-ray diffraction photography to begin the build and then added DNA’s physical and chemical properties into the equation. Finally they came up with the world-famous double-helix model of DNA. Their work led to the understanding of gene replication and the nature of chromosomes and finally how DNA can be read as a code to understand the nature of cells.

DNA Double Helix

    In 1977 Crick became a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Research in San Diego and worked on the difficult subject of the nature of consciousness which is still not fully understood. He died in San Diego on the 28th July 2004.

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