- Crick , Francis Harry Compton
- (1916–) British molecular biologistThe son of a shoe manufacturer from Northampton, Crick was educated at University College, London. After graduating in physics in 1938 he began his research career under E.N. Andrade working on the measurement of the viscosity of water. With the outbreak of war he was posted to the Admiralty to work on the design of acoustic and magnetic mines. Crick found himself at the end of the war at a loss what to do. He was drawn towards pure science and after reading Schrödinger's book What is Life?(1944), Crick decided that he wanted to work on a “major mystery – the mystery of life and the mystery of consciousness.” With backing from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Crick began his odyssey in 1947 at the Strangeways Laboratory, Cambridge, working on tissue culture. Two years later he moved to the newly formed MRC unit at the Cavendish studying the structure of proteins by x-ray diffraction analysis.In 1951 a young American student, James Watson, arrived at the unit. Watson suggested to Crick that it was necessary to find the molecular structure of the hereditary material, DNA, before its function could be properly understood. Much was already known about the chemical and physical nature of DNA from the studies of such scientists as Phoebus Levene, Erwin Chargaff, Alexander Todd, and Linus Pauling. Using this knowledge and the x-ray diffraction data of Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, Crick and Watson had built, by 1953, a molecular model incorporating all the known features of DNA. Fundamental to the model was their conception of DNA as a double helix. Despite the significance of Crick's work on DNA he remained officially a graduate student. Consequently he returned to his work on protein structure and completed his PhD in 1953 at the age of 37.Ten years' intensive research in many laboratories around the world all tended to confirm Crick and Watson's model. For their work, which has been called the most significant discovery of this century, they were awarded, with Wilkins, the 1962 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.Crick, in collaboration with Sydney Brenner, made important contributions to the understanding of the genetic code and introduced the term ‘codon’ to describe a set of three adjacent bases that together code for one amino acid. He also formulated the adaptor hypothesis in which he suggested that, in protein synthesis, small adaptor molecules act as intermediaries between the messenger RNA template and the amino acids. Such adaptors, or transfer RNAs, were identified independently by Robert Holley and Paul Berg in 1956. Crick is also known for his formulation of the Central Dogma of molecular genetics, which assumes that the passage of genetic information is from DNA to RNA to protein. David Baltimore was later to show that in certain cases, information can actually go from RNA to DNA.In 1977 Crick moved to the Salk Institute, San Diego, California where he has since remained. While at Salk he worked on the second of the great mysteries he identified in 1947, namely, the nature of consciousness. At an early stage he rejected computer models of the mind and the neural Darwinism of G. Edelman. He went on to publish his mature views on the nature of mind in hisThe Astonishing Hypothesis (1994), in which he argued that “your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated miracles.” He had previously published in 1983, with Graeme Mitchinson, a novel account of dreams. “We dream in order to forget,” he claims. Dreams allow the brain to eliminate the unwanted information collected during the day which would otherwise clog up the system.Crick has also published his intellectual autobiography, What Mad Pursuit (New York, 1988).
Scientists. Academic. 2011.