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7 July 1994
The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... I have never seen FrancisCrick in a modest mood.’ Thus James Watson opens his notorious account of the discovery of the structure of DNA which won him, Crick and Maurice Wilkins a Nobel Prize in 1962. Whichever other of Watson’s judgments have been controversial – notably his dismissal of Rosalind Franklin, from whom, courtesy of Wilkins, he and Crick ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin

20 March 2003
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... even to the lives of molecular biologists. Indeed, molecular biologists have stolen the limelight from physicists and astronomers. Best known among them are the Nobel laureates James Watson and FrancisCrick; less well known is Rosalind Franklin, who died in 1958 aged 37. Today many believe that, had she lived, she, too, would have won a Nobel Prize for her pivotal contribution to the work on DNA ...


Ed Regis

26 May 1994
The Beat of a Different Drum: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman 
by Jagdish Mehra.
Oxford, 630 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 19 853948 7
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... ought to be a perfect subject for any biographer. In 1959, while ‘on sabbatical’, he studied molecular biology and even here did work that was later cited by researchers in the field, including FrancisCrick. Feynman made advances in subjects ranging from nanotechnology to quark jets to the fundamental limits of computation. He seemed to know everything and everyone in science. He was well-loved by ...

Triple Life

Brian Pippard

23 November 1989
Schrödinger: Life and Thought 
by Walter Moore.
Cambridge, 513 pp., £25, August 1989, 9780521354349
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... interest in what looked a promising research line – applying physical methods to determining the structure and behaviour of genes and other constituents of the living organism. Among them were FrancisCrick and Maurice Wilkins, and one cannot doubt that Schrödinger’s little, flawed classic was an instigator of one of the most significant scientific advances of the century ...

In the Library

Inigo Thomas

25 April 2013
... St Pancras station. The library is surrounded by a number of large buildings, both old and new. Through the trellises on the cafeteria’s north-facing terrace is the building site of the forthcoming FrancisCrick Institute, whose research laboratories will open in 2015: 1500 people are expected to work there. To the west is the Ossulston Estate, or the ‘Ring Road of the Proletariat’, as it’s also ...


Nicholas Wade

20 September 1984
A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock 
by Evelyn Fox Keller.
Freeman, 235 pp., £13.95, July 1984, 0 7167 1433 7
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A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube 
by S.E. Luria.
Harper and Row, 229 pp., £12.50, May 1984, 0 06 015260 5
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... of the juggernaut phenomenon. If a discovery is not made by X it will be made by Y. In fact, many discoveries have been made almost simultaneously by two or three scientists ... If Watson and Crick had not discovered the double helix structure for DNA it would probably have been discovered by someone else within a few weeks or months ... Likewise, if I had not discovered restriction and ...
18 March 1999
Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... Gould, Thompson’s ideas do not figure prominently in the biological curriculum or the mainstream of research. By contrast, that mainstream takes very seriously an unguarded remark of the youthful FrancisCrick, who once announced to the lunchtime crowd at the Eagle in Cambridge: ‘Jim and I have discovered the secret of life.’ Watson and Crick’s identification of the molecular structure of DNA ...

Comet Mania

Simon Schaffer

19 February 1981
The comet is coming! 
by Nigel Calder.
BBC, 160 pp., £8.75, November 1980, 0 563 17859 0
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... idea of some scientists at Berkeley that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a cloud of iridium left in the Earth’s atmosphere after the impact of a comet. Neither of these ideas is particularly new: FrancisCrick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, appealed to comets as the origin of life on Earth in his theory of ‘directed panspermia’; in 1684 the anonymous author of a book called Cometomantia ...

How to Get Another Thorax

Steven Rose: Epigenetics

7 September 2016
... he left for Edinburgh, where he remained for the rest of his career, but despite his continued advocacy of the theory, epigenetics faded from view. With​ the discovery of the structure of DNA by FrancisCrick and James Watson in the 1950s, there was a renewed conviction among biologists – especially the physicists and engineers turned biologists like Crick – that what was needed was a ruthless ...
1 September 1983
Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... does not really work’; and then IQ psychologists, who ‘give the impression of being incapable of learning anything from anybody’; and everyone else who doubts the hope of progress, such as Francis Galton, for the ‘air of almost exultant scorn in his description of the uselessness of a man’s trying to better himself beyond the degree of his innate capacities’; there are other kinds of ...
26 September 1991
by Jerry Bishop and Michael Waldholz.
Touchstone, 352 pp., £8.99, September 1991, 0 671 74032 6
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... Avery and his collaborators found that the lethal gene was made of DNA. At first few scientists believed that so simple a molecule could specify genetic information, but its role became clear when FrancisCrick and Jim Watson in Cambridge determined its three-dimensional structure. Their famous double helix showed how the genetic information is written on DNA and how it is copied every time a cell ...


Daniel Kevles

17 August 1989
Thinking about science: Max Delbrück and the Origins of Molecular Biology 
by Ernst Peter Fischer and Carol Lipson.
Norton, 334 pp., £13.95, January 1989, 9780393025088
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Is science necessary? Essays on Science and Scientists 
by M.F. Perutz.
Barrie and Jenkins, 285 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 7126 2123 7
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... but he did not take up the central problem of how that structure might be faithfully transmitted from one generation to the next. This was the problem which utterly absorbed James Watson and FrancisCrick as they struggled at the beginning of the Fifties, in Perutz’s group at the Cavendish, to unravel the structure of DNA. They spent a lot of time lounging around and arguing – indulging in ...

Do squid feel pain?

Peter Godfrey-Smith

4 February 2016
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts 
by Stanislas Dehaene.
Penguin, 336 pp., £11, December 2014, 978 0 14 312626 3
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... that a system in the brain functions to integrate diverse sources of information for use in a slow, attentive style of thinking. We are conscious of whatever is currently in that workspace. In 1990, FrancisCrick, working with Christof Koch, offered a somewhat different theory, focusing on consciousness in visual experience, and around the same time some groundbreaking experiments were undertaken by ...

Sexy Robots

Ian Patterson: ‘Machines Like Me’

9 May 2019
Machines like Me 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 305 pp., £18.99, April, 978 1 78733 166 2
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... this: there is more than a little A-level-style box-ticking about the portrait, his focused look recalling ‘the elderly Lucian Freud’, his younger face changed by the years he spent working with FrancisCrick in California in the 1960s by day and hanging out with Thom Gunn and his friends by night. This association of ideas, familiar from magazine profiles, is too neat to be persuasive. When Charlie ...

Launch the Icebergs!

Tim Lewens: Who Was Max Perutz?

15 November 2007
Max Perutz and the Secret of Life 
by Georgina Ferry.
Chatto, 352 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 7011 7695 2
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... for discovering the secret of life. So what was his involvement in the discovery? What, for that matter, is the secret of life? Ferry keeps to the conventional meaning of the phrase, encouraged by FrancisCrick’s announcement in the Eagle pub in Cambridge in 1953, and since then widely adopted among popular science writers. To learn the secret of life is not to discover how organisms become adapted ...

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