Francis Crick


Biology I

Famous Person

Francis Harry Compton Crick was born June 8, 1916 in Northampton, England. He was the first of two children born to Harry Crick and Anne Elizabeth Wilkens. Crick attended grammar school in North Hampton, but moved to North London to attend Mill High School. At age eighteen, Crick enrolled in University College where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1937.

In 1940, Crick and his then wife, Ruth Doreen Dodd, bore a son named Michael. Crick and Doreen divorced in 1947, and two years later he married his present wife, Odile Speed. He and Odile have two daughters, Gabrielle and Jacqueline. Crick did his graduate studies on the measurement of viscosity of water at high temperatures. In 1947, he began his Ph.D. work at the Strangeways Laboratory, Cambridge with Arthur Hughes. There Crick and Hughes studied the physical properties of cytoplasm in the cultured fibroblast cells. Two years later he joined the Medical Research Unit at Cavendish Laboratory. There Crick worked with Max Perutz and John Kerdrew on protein structure. He ended up doing his Ph. D work on x-ray diffraction of proteins.

Crick soon joined James Watson in an attempt to uncover the structure of DNA. Crick brought to the project his knowledge of x-ray diffraction, while Watson brought knowledge of phage and bacterial genetics. In 1953, these two distinct backgrounds uncovered the structure of DNA: the double helix. Crick and Watson first published one of their four papers about this discovery in the April 25 edition of the journal Nature.

Crick is best known for his work in the discovery of the double helix, but since then he has made many other discoveries. After his discovery of the double helix, Crick went to work on finding the relationship between DNA and genetic coding. During this study with Vernon Ingram, they discovered the function of the genetic material in determining the specificity of proteins. In 1957, Crick began work with Sydney Brenner to determine how the sequence of DNA bases would specify the amino acid sequence in proteins.

Crick established not only the basic genetic code, but predicted the mechanism for protein synthesis. This worked led to many RNA/DNA discoveries and helped in the creation of the DNA/RNA dictionary. In 1960 Crick began to study the structure and possible functions of certain proteins associated with chromosomes called histones. Crick finally left Cambridge Laboratories in 1976 to become Kieckhefer Professor at Salk Institute for biological studies in San Diego, California. It was there that Crick began his present project of the study of the brain.

Francis Crick has won many awards and acknowledgments since his discovery of DNA in 1953. The most popular of these awards is the 1962 Nobel Prize of Medicine and Physiology that he shares with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins. The trio also won the 1960 Albert Lasker Award. Crick was acknowledged as a Visiting Lecturer at Rockefeller Institute in 1959, and as a Visiting Professor for Harvard in 1959 and 1960. Crick has won the 1962 Gardener Foundation Award, the 1972 Royal Society’s Royal Medal, and the 1976 Royal Society’s Copley Medal.