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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

July, 2004
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Francis Crick with a model of a DNA strand Francis Crick
1916 - 2004

AUDIO & VIDEO
Audio availableFrancis Crick talking about his collaboration with James Watson Recorded in 1962 (Real 56k, 2'13")

Audio available Francis Crick on how long it took to work out the molecular structure of DNA Recorded in 1962 (Real 56k, 1'32")

Audio available Francis Crick on the properties of life and what a virus is Recorded in 1962 (Real 56k, 2.20")

Audio available Francis Crick talking about his interest in developmental biology and embryology Recorded in 1974 (Real 56k, 4'37")

Use the BBC Webwise guide to downloading realplayer
ALSO SEE
Sense of Place homepage

Audio interviews with Crick & Watson
BBC FOUR website with more interviews with Francis Crick and James Watson.

DNA 50
BBC News looks at 50 years since the discovery of the structure of DNA
WEBSITE LINKS

The Human Genome Project
An introduction to the project that is trying to find out how we are all made.

DNA from the beginning
A detailed history of genetics, covering the genome, DNA molecules and sex cells.

Nature: Genome gateway
Nature magazine's in-depth feature on the human genome.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

FACT FILE

8 June 1916: Francis Harry Compton Crick, born in Northampton
1931: Leaves Northampton School for Boys when he moves to London.
1934: Studies physics at University College, London, graduating in 1937.
1940: Joins the British Admiralty Research Laboratory.
Married Ruth Dodd.
1947: Moves to Cambridge to work on the physical properties of cytoplasm in cultured fibroblast cells.
Divorces Ruth.
1949: Moves to the Medical Research Centre, Cambridge to work on using X-ray crystallography to discover the three-dimensional structure of proteins.
Marries Odile Speed.
1950: Crick and Watson begin work on their first DNA Model.
1953: Crick and Watson publish their paper on the structure of DNA.
1959: Made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

1962: Crick and Watson are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
1976: Crick moves to California to become the Kieckhefer Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
1991: Appointed an Order of Merit
1994: Publishes his views on consciousness - 'The Scientific Search for the Soul'.
July 1994: Francis Crick dies at Thornton Hospital, San Diego where he'd been battling colon cancer.

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Francis Crick, who helped discover the double helix shape of DNA along with James Watson, has died aged 88.

Professor Crick died at Thornton Hospital in San Diego, US, where he had been battling colon cancer.

We look back at his work and his life:

A model of a human DNA strand
A model of a human DNA strand

Francis Crick, together with an American, James Watson, were the first to describe the double-helix structure of DNA.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is "the stuff of life". It's found in nearly all living things and is responsible for all the characteristics we inherit from our parents, such as looks, health and personality traits.

That discovery - back in 1953 - has opened the doors to a new world of science. Not only have we now a better understanding of what makes us all tick, but we have new treatments for diseases.

Theatricals

The Nobel Prize-winning scientist was born in Holmfield Way, Northampton on 8 June, 1916. The family didn't have a car, so the young Francis Crick used the garage "for amateur theatricals and chemical experiments".

Holmfield Way
Birth place: Holmfield Way, Northampton as it is today

His grandfather, Walter Drawbridge Crick, had started a boot and shoe factory on St Giles' Street. Francis later recalled: "He was a successful businessman, as well as an amateur geologist and biologist. He published several scientific papers on geology. Two new forms of gastropods are named after him."

Experiments

Francis's Uncle Walter lived on Abington Avenue. "He had a shed at the bottom of his little garden where he taught me to blow glass, do chemical experiments and to make photographic prints."

Northampton School for Boys
Old school: Northampton School for Boys

Francis attended Northampton Grammar School (now Northampton School for Boys) but in 1931, his family moved to London and Francis got a place at Mill Hill School, North London. He later studied physics at University College, London.

During the Second World War he worked for the Admiralty but in 1947 returned to his studies, this time biology, which was a subject he knew little about. He went to Cambridge and joined the Medical Research Council Unit. In 1950, he became a research student for the second time when he was accepted by Caius College, Cambridge.

Watson

Jamers Watson
Co-discoverer: James Watson

It was this year that Francis first got to know a 23-year-old from the United States, James Watson.

Together, Crick and Watson tried to work out the structure of DNA. In 1953, they jointly proposed a double-helix structure. This was a breakthrough science had been hoping for.

That was not the end of his research. Francis went on to make important contributions to the development of molecular biology.

Brains

In 1976, he moved to the United States, joining the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. There he switched his focus to neuroscience and brain research.

Francis had come a long way since experimenting with chemicals in his Northampton garage. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Nobel Prize winner for Medicine, and in 1991 was appointed the Order of Merit - a position restricted to 24 people, plus the sovereign.

Following his groundbreaking work on DNA, it's quite appropriate that his house in America was called 'The Golden Helix'.

Have your say

Send us your comments about Francis Crick. Please use the form below to send us your comments.

sue
wat does the sculpture mean?

Rob Jones BC Canada
Nice Job Northampton wih the commemorative sculpture, looks like a positive addition to Abington Street.....

Martin D. Packer
"Following his groundbreaking work on DNA, it's quite appropriate that his house in America was called 'The Golden Helix'." More to the point his house in Portugal Place, Cambridge, UK was actually called "The Golden Helix"! M.D.Packer

BrendanConnolly
We people of Northampton do not need reconition for all our achievements, We are just proud that we have helped the World progress to new height;s that;s reconition in it self.

John Baker, Christrchurch, New Zealand
Additional to my comments below, I was born in Northampton, but left the town and have lived in Aotearoa-New Zealand for 40 years. So I feel qualified to make the comments I did.

John Baker, Christchurch, New Zealand
Wake Up Northampton - the world does not know you exist, taking an infrequent look at happenings in the town through the BBC Website, I have a different view to you who live there. Make something of the people who have contributed to our planet. Bang the Drum about Crick, Washington etc. Do GM and Ford still have their high performance engine builders in the County eg Cosworth Ford? If so shout it from the rooftops

John Baker, Christchurch, New Zealand
Wake Up Northampton - the world does not know you exist, taking an infrequent look at happenings in the town through the BBC Website, I have a different view to you who live there. Make something of the people who have contributed to our planet. Bang the Drum about Crick, Washington etc. Do GM and Ford still have their high performance engine builders in the County eg Cosworth Ford? If so shout it from the rooftops

Dom
What a shame this brilliant man was not honoured by his home town before his death. Typical!noured

Sally Marshall
Had it not been for the sad death of this great man I wouldn't even have known he was Northampton. Shame on you Northampton for not commemorating his acheivements.

mollie lyon
find somewhere prominent to place a plaque in francis cricks honour

tony lyon
offer francis crick the freedom of the borough

Jase
Has Northampton ever offered Francis Crick the freedom of the borough? If not, why not? Surely he deserves it. We should celebrate our achievers, not forget them!



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