Crick, Francis, 1916-2004

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1916-06-08
Death 2004-07-28
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on June 8, 1916 in Weston Favell, a district of Northampton, in central England. At age 18, Crick attended University College London (UCL). In 1937, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, second honors, in Physics with a minor in mathematics. With family financial aid, Crick began graduate study at UCL until the outbreak of World War II interrupted his studies. Crick's war work involved research on magnetic and acoustic mines for the British Admiralty. Briefly, he worked for Naval Intelligence at Whitehall in London. In 1940, he married Ruth Doreen Dodd, a UCL English Literature undergraduate, and their son, Michael, was born during an air raid on November 25, 1940. After the war, Crick decided to move from physics to study "the division between the living and the non-living," choosing the field of study today termed molecular biology. In 1949, Crick joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) as a Cavendish Laboratory scientist, and at age 33, once again became a graduate student. Four years later, he obtained his PhD from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In 1949, Crick married Odile Speed. Their first daughter, Gabrielle, was born in 1951, followed by Jacqueline in 1954. In 1952, Crick began his collaboration with James Watson that resulted in establishing the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Later, both would both share the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Maurice Wilkins for these discoveries. The Cricks traveled frequently around the globe to symposiums and to give lectures. He was a visiting lecturer at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, UC Berkeley's virus laboratory, the University of Rochester, and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In the 1960's, Crick, along with Paul McCartney, Graham Greene and others collaborated to urge cannabis legal reform. Crick, an outspoken atheist and associated with various humanist organizations, sponsored an essay contest on what might be done with the Cambridge College chapels. Nobel fame brought television, movie and book offers. In the 1970's, Crick and Watson agreed to participate in the making of the documentary DNA STORY. 1976 marked the beginning of the family's transition to California. First, Crick visited during an eight-month sabbatical and then accepted an offer to become the Kieckhefer Professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences in La Jolla. The Cricks moved to coastal California and later bought land eighty-five miles east in the desert town of Borrego Springs where they built a house and enjoyed desert gardening. In 1994-1995, Crick served as President of the Salk Institute, but resigned after after having heart surgery in 1995. In 2001, Crick was diagnosed with colon cancer. He continued to work and was able to attend many of the functions associated with the 50th Anniversary of the double helix discovery. He died at age 88 on July 28, 2004. Crick was survived by Odile, his wife of 55 years, his three children and four grandchildren. Among the many honors beyond the Nobel Prize, Crick was awarded the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer, the Gairdner Foundation's Award of Merit, the Warren Triennial Prize Lecture, Foreign Honorary Membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellowships from UCL, Churchill College, Gonville and Caius College, and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society, French Academy of Sciences and Irish Academy Memberships.

From the description of Francis Crick personal papers, 1938-2007. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 76807030

Biologist born in England.

From the description of Francis Crick professional papers, 1947-2001. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 321961301

Biography

Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on June 8, 1916 in Weston Favell, a district of Northampton, in central England. Crick was the eldest of the two sons of Harry Crick (1878-1948) and Anne Elizabeth Crick (nee Wilkins) (1879-1955). His father and uncle ran the leather boot and shoe factory founded by their father, Walter D. Crick, an amateur naturalist. The elder Crick 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.

Crick attended Northampton Grammar School and the non-conformist Protestant Congregational Church. At age 14, he won a scholarship to the Mill Hill School, a private boarding school in North London that his father and three uncles had also attended.

At age 18, Crick attended University College in London (UCL). In 1937, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, second honors, in Physics with a minor in mathematics. With family financial aid, Crick began graduate study at UCL until the outbreak of World War II interrupted his studies. Crick's war work involved research on magnetic and acoustic mines for the British Admiralty. Briefly, he worked for Naval Intelligence at Whitehall in London. In 1940, he married Ruth Doreen Dodd, a UCL English Literature undergrad, and their son, Michael, was born during an air raid on November 25, 1940.

After the war, Crick decided to move from physics to study "the division between the living and the non-living,'' choosing the field of study today termed molecular biology. In 1947, he accepted work at the Strangeways Laboratory that he later described as his "apprenticeship in biology." In 1949, Crick joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) as a Cavendish Laboratory scientist and, at age 33, once again became a graduate student. Four years later, he obtained his PhD from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

In 1949, Crick married Odile Speed (born 8-11-1920 in King's Lynn, Norfolk, daughter of a British jeweler, Alfred Valentine Speed, and a French mother, Marie-Therese Josephine Speed (nee Jaeger)). Odile was an art student at St. Martin's School of Art in London, in Paris, and was studying in Vienna when German troops entered that city. She served as a WREN (Women's Royal Naval Service) officer whose activities included driving trucks, code-breaking, and translating German documents. She met Francis in 1945 at the Admiralty. The Cricks lived in a small flat called the Green Door above a tobacconist shop in Cambridge. Their first daughter, Gabrielle, was born in 1951, followed by Jacqueline in 1954.

In 1952, Crick began his collaboration with James Watson that resulted in establishing the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Later, both would share the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Maurice Wilkins for these discoveries.

The Cricks traveled frequently around the globe to symposiums and to give lectures. He was a visiting lecturer at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, UC Berkeley's virus laboratory, the University of Rochester, and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Crick was also, from almost its inception, a visiting fellow at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences in La Jolla, CA each February. In 1960, funded partly by the Lasker Foundation Prize, the Crick's visited Mont Blanc and enjoyed a month-long stay in a Tangier villa. Often Crick would then travel on alone to a scientific meeting. Later, the Cricks would travel on speaking tours to Japan, Thailand, India, and vacation in Geneva, Zurich, Paris and French Polynesia. The family took up boating when Crick bought first a half-share of a 47-foot Sparkman & Stephens yacht, then later a Bertram power boat named the "Eye of Heaven." Vacations then regularly included the Greek Islands.

The year 1962 brought honors and promotions. Crick received the Nobel Prize and the family traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to attend the festivities including dinner with King Gustaf VI. At the MRC, Crick became a joint head of the newly founded MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

In the 1960s, Crick, along with Paul McCartney, Graham Greene and others collaborated to urge cannabis legal reform. Unafraid of controversy, Crick, an outspoken atheist and associated with various humanist organizations, sponsored an essay contest on what might be done with the Cambridge College chapels.

Nobel fame brought television, movie and book offers. In 1968, Watson published his best seller, the Double Helix . In the 1970s, Crick and Watson agreed to participate in the making of the documentary, DNA Story . In 1984, the BBC released Life Story, a 106-minute dramatic television program which was well-received in Britain and in America. In 1971, Crick and Leslie Orgel created the hypothesis of "directed Panspermia" (the idea that genetic materials may have been purposely spread by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization). This led to one of Crick's four books: Life Itself: Its Origin And Nature (1981). Crick wrote 130 published papers as well as three other books: Of Molecules And Men (1966), What Mad Pursuit (1988), and The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search For The Soul (1994).

1976 marked the beginning of the family's transition to California. First, Crick visited during an eight-month sabbatical and then accepted Salk's offer to become the Kieckhefer Professor at the Institute. The Cricks moved to coastal California and later bought land eighty-five miles east in the desert town of Borrego Springs where he built a house and enjoyed desert gardening.

In 1994-1995, Crick served as President of the Salk Institute but resigned after having heart surgery in 1995. In 2001, Crick was diagnosed with colon cancer. He continued to work and was able to attend many of the functions associated with the 50th Anniversary of the double helix discovery. He died at age 88 on July 28, 2004. Crick was survived by his wife of 55 years, Odile, who died on July 5, 2007.

Among the many honors beyond the Nobel Prize, Crick was awarded the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer, the Gairdner Foundation's Award of Merit, the Warren Triennial Prize Lecture, Foreign Honorary Membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellowships from UCL, Churchill College, Gonville and Caius College, and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society, French Academy of Sciences and Irish Academy memberships.

Biographies include: M. Ridley, Francis Crick: Discoverer Of The Genetic Code (2006); P. Strathern, Crick, Watson, And DNA (1999); H. F. Judson, The Eighth Day Of Creation (expanded ed. 1996) and J. D. Watson, The Double Helix (1968).

From the guide to the Francis Crick Personal Papers, 1938 - 2007, (Mandeville Special Collections Library)

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Subjects:

  • Consciousness
  • Biologists--Biography
  • Neural circuitry
  • DNA--Research--History
  • DNA--Structure
  • Molecular biology--History
  • Proteins
  • Genetic code
  • Nucleic acids
  • Molecular biology
  • Mutagenesis
  • Genetics--History
  • Physicists--Biography

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • England (as recorded)