Crick and Watson, together with Maurice Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of the structure of DNA. This was one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on 8 June 1916 near Northampton. He studied physics at University College, London, and during World War Two worked for the Admiralty on the development of mines. He changed from physics to biology and in 1947 began to work at Cambridge University. By 1949 he was working at the Medical Research Council unit at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. In 1951 an American student, James Watson, arrived at the unit and the two began to work together.
James Dewey Watson was born on 6 April 1928 in Chicago and studied at the universities of Chicago, Indiana and Copenhagen. He then moved to Cambridge University. Watson and Crick worked together on studying the structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the molecule that contains the hereditary information for cells.
At that time Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, both working at King's College, London, were using X-ray diffraction to study DNA. Crick and Watson used their findings in their own research. In April 1953, they published the news of their discovery, a molecular structure of DNA based on all its known features - the double helix. Their model served to explain how DNA replicates and how hereditary information is coded on it. This set the stage for the rapid advances in molecular biology that continue to this day.
Watson, Crick and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962. Franklin had died in 1958 and, despite her key experimental work, the prize could not be received posthumously. Crick and Watson both received numerous other awards and prizes for their work.
Francis Crick continued to work in genetics and then moved into brain research, becoming a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. He died on 28 July 2004.
From 1988 to 1992, James Watson directed the Human Genome Project at the American National Institutes of Health. He was instrumental in obtaining funding for the project and in encouraging cooperation between governments and leading scientists.
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