Francis Crick

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Francis Crick : biography

8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004

Early life and education

Francis Harry Compton Crick was the first son of Harry Crick (1887–1948) and Annie Elizabeth Crick (née Wilkins; 1879–1955). He was born and raised between Abington Park and Weston Favell, then a small village near the English town of Northampton, in which Crick’s father and uncle ran the family’s boot and shoe factory. His grandfather, Walter Drawbridge Crick (1857–1903), an amateur naturalist, wrote a survey of local foraminifera (single-celled protists with shells), corresponded with Charles Darwin, and had two gastropods (snails or slugs) named after him.

At an early age, Francis was attracted to science and what he could learn about it from books. As a child, he was taken to church by his parents. But by about age 12, he said he did not want to go anymore, as he preferred a scientific search for answers over religious belief. — "I remember telling my mother that I no longer wished to go to church".

His uncle, Walter Crick, lived in a small house on the south side of Abington Avenue; he had a shed at the bottom of his little garden where he taught Crick to blow glass, do chemical experiments and to make photographic prints. When he was eight or nine he transferred to the most junior form of the Northampton Grammar School, on the Billing Road. This was about 1 1/4 miles from his home so he could walk there and back, by Park Avenue South and Abington Park Crescent, but he more often went by bus or, later, by bicycle. The teacher – a Miss Holding – was an inspired teacher and made everything interesting. The teaching in the higher forms was satisfactory, but not as stimulating. After the age of 14, he was educated at Mill Hill School in London (on scholarship), where he studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry with his best friend John Shilston. He shared the Walter Knox Prize for Chemistry on Mill Hill School’s Foundation Day, Friday, 7 July 1933. He declared that his success was inspired by the quality of teaching he received whilst a pupil at Mill Hill.

At the age of 21, Crick earned a B.Sc. degree in physics from University College London.Chapters 1 and 2 of What Mad Pursuit by Francis Crick — provide Crick’s description of his early life and education Crick had failed to gain a place at a Cambridge college, probably through failing their requirement for Latin. Crick later became a PhD student and Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and mainly worked at the Cavendish Laboratory and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He was also an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College and of University College, London.

Crick began a Ph.D. research project on measuring viscosity of water at high temperatures (which he later described as "the dullest problem imaginable"Page 13 of What Mad Pursuit by Francis Crick.) in the laboratory of physicist Edward Neville da Costa Andrade at University College, London, but with the outbreak of World War II (in particular, an incident during the Battle of Britain when a bomb fell through the roof of the laboratory and destroyed his experimental apparatus), Crick was deflected from a possible career in physics. During his second year as a PhD student, however, he was awarded the Carey Foster Research Prize, a great honor.Robert Olby Daedalus , Vol. 99, No. 4, The Making of Modern Science: Biographical Studies (Fall, 1970), pp. 941

During World War II, he worked for the Admiralty Research Laboratory, from which emerged a group of many notable scientists, including David Bates, Robert Boyd, George Deacon, John Gunn, Harrie Massey, and Nevill Mott; he worked on the design of magnetic and acoustic mines, and was instrumental in designing a new mine that was effective against German minesweepers.