Francis Crick

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Francis Crick : biography

8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004

Eugenics

Crick occasionally expressed his views on eugenics, usually in private letters. For example, Crick advocated a form of positive eugenics in which wealthy parents would be encouraged to have more children.Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code by Matt Ridley, published in 2006 by HarperCollins Publishers. He once remarked, "In the long run, it is unavoidable that society will begin to worry about the character of the next generation… It is not a subject at the moment which we can tackle easily because people have so many religious beliefs and until we have a more uniform view of ourselves I think it would be risky to try and do anything in the way of eugenics… I would be astonished if, in the next 100 or 200 years, society did not come round to the view that they would have to try to improve the next generation in some extent or one way or another."

Creationism

It has been suggested by some observers that Crick’s speculation about panspermia "fits neatly into the intelligent design concept." by Bill Toland for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (28 September 2005). Crick’s name was raised in this context in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial over the teaching of intelligent design. Crick was, however, a firm critic of Young Earth creationism. In the 1987 United States Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard, Crick joined a group of other Nobel laureates who advised that, "’Creation-science’ simply has no place in the public-school science classroom." filed in the case Edwards v. Aguillard before the U.S. Supreme Court (1986). Crick was also an advocate for the establishment of Darwin Day as a British national holiday.Press release from the British Humanist Association: (12 February 2003).

Controversy

A controversy has been generated by some because of Crick and Watson’s use of DNA X-ray diffraction data collected by Rosalind Franklin and her student Raymond Gosling. At the time she had been employed by Wilkins to use her crystallography skills to obtain better images for his DNA work to which end he provided her with his crystalline DNA. As is not unusual among scientists, Wilkins after examining the data shared it with Max Perutz.Chapter 3 of The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology by Horace Freeland Judson published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (1996) ISBN 0-87969-478-5. also working at the Cavendish Lab at Cambridge where Crick and Watson were based. Her experimental results provided estimates of the water content of DNA crystals, and these results were most consistent with the three sugar-phosphate backbones being on the outside of the molecule.Maurice Wilkins; The Third Man of the Double Helix by Maurice Wilkins (ISBN 0-19-860665-6). Wilkins provides a detailed account of the fact that Franklin’s results were interpreted as most likely indicated three, and possibly four, polynucleotide strands in the DNA molecule. Franklin’s X-Ray photograph showed that the backbones had to be on the outside; however, she insisted vehemently that her data did not force one to conclude that DNA has a helical structure. Her identification of the space group for DNA crystals revealed to Crick that the DNA strands were antiparallel, which helped Watson and Crick decide to look for DNA models with two antiparallel polynucleotide strands. The X-ray diffraction images collected by Franklin provided the best evidence for the helical nature of DNA. While Franklin’s experimental work proved important to Crick and Watson’s development of the correct model, she herself could not realize its significance at the time and abandoned the DNA field leaving it behind at Wilkins’ King’s College lab when she moved to J. D. Bernal’s Lab at Birkbeck College to do superb work with the tobacco mosaic virus extending ideas on helical construction.

Prior to publication of the double helix structure, Crick and Watson had little interaction with Franklin. Crick and Watson felt that they had benefited from collaborating with Maurice Wilkins. They offered him a co-authorship on the article that first described the double helix structure of DNA. Wilkins turned down the offer, and was in part responsible for the terse character of the acknowledgment of experimental work done at King’s College London. Rather than make any of the DNA researchers at King’s College co-authors on the Watson and Crick double helix article, the solution was to publish two additional papers from King’s College along with the helix paper. Brenda Maddox suggested that because of the importance of her experimental results in Watson and Crick’s model building and theoretical analysis, Franklin should have had her name on the original Watson and Crick paper in Nature. Franklin and Gosling submitted their own joint ‘second’ paper to Nature at the same time as Wilkins, Stokes, and Wilson submitted theirs (i.e. the ‘third’ paper on DNA).