of DNA double helix fame – Francis Crick
Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004) English molecular biologist, physicist, and neuroscientist who is known for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953.
Francis Crick, James D. Watson, and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material”.
At the age of 21, Crick earned B.Sc. degree in physics from University College, London.
Scientist Francis Crick began a Ph.D. research project on measuring viscosity of water at high temperatures.
During World War II a bomb fell through the roof of his laboratory destroying all paraphernalia. Crick was deflected from a possible career in physics.
After World War II, in 1947 Crick began studying biology. Scientist Francis Crick was interested in two fundamental problems in biology (i) how molecules make the transition from the non-living to the living? (ii) how the brain makes a conscious mind? On this background thought, Crick’s transition of interest from physics into biology evolved.
It was clear that some macromolecule such as protein was likely to be the generic molecule. Proteins are structural and functional macromolecules, some of which carry out enzymatic reactions of cells.
In 1940s, some evidence accrued that DNA, a macromolecule, a major component of chromosomes evolved as a candidate genetic molecule. X-ray crystallography studies to reveal the molecular structure were carried out.
Scientist Francis Crick Double helix 1951-1953
helix : [pl. helices] shape like a spiral
helical : like a helix
Scientist Francis Crick double helix : the structure of DNA, consisting of two connected long thin pieces that form a spiral shape.
The number of bases stacked within a single turn of the DNA helix (10 per turn; a full turn of the helix is 27 angstroms [2.7 nm] in the compact A form, 34 angstroms [3.4 nm] in the wetter B form).
A:T and C:G pairs are structurally similar. In particular, the length of each base pair is the same. Diagrammatic representation of some key structural features of DNA.
The similar structures of guanine:cytosine and adenine: thymine base pairs is illustrated. The base pairs are held together by hydrogen bonds. The phosphate backbones are anti-parallel.
Scientist Francis Crick Molecular biology
In 1954 Scientist Francis Crick completed his thesis for Ph.D: “X-ray Diffraction: Polypeptides and Proteins” and received his degree.
Scientist Francis Crick continued working on ribonuclease and the mechanisms of protein synthesis. There was a common set of about 20 amino acids to synthesize proteins.
Scientist Francis Crick is widely known for use of the term “central dogma” to summarize an idea that genetic information flow in cells is essentially one-way, from DNA to RNA to protein. DNA->RNA ->Protein.
Panspermia: The theory that life could be diffused through the universe by means of germs carried by meteorites or that life was brought to earth by this means.
Steyn described the theory of directed panspermia as amounting to “gods in the skies who fertilize the earth and then retreat to the heavens beyond our reach.”
Steyn categorized Cricks ideas as “a belief in a celestial creator of human life, indeed a deus ex machina (an unexpected power or event that saves a situation that seems without hope)”.
Neuroscience, other interests.
His autobiographical book, What Mad Pursuit includes a description of why he left molecular biology and switched to neuroscience.
His interest: how the brain generates visual awareness within a few hundred milliseconds of viewing a scene [Cf. Bhaskara II].
Scientist Francis Crick has widely been described as talkative, brash, and lacking modesty (not a Crack – superb clarification).
One colleague from the Salk Institute described him as “a brain storming intellectual powerhouse with a mischievous smile…”
- The Francis Crick Prize Lectures at The Royal Society, London
- The Francis Crick Graduate Lectures at the University of Cambridge
- Fellow of the Royal Society
- Fellow International Academy of Humanism
- Fellow CSICOP
His later research centered on theoretical neurobiology and study of human consciousness. “He was editing a manuscript on his death bed, a scientist until the bitter end”, said his close associate.
Scientist Francis Crick died of colon cancer on 28th July 2004; he was cremated and his ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
Scientist Francis Crick made some predictions about what the next 30 years would hold for molecular biology. He briefly mentioned the attempt at search for life on other planets.
A possible new direction for research: “biochemical theology”, alternative name : Neurotheology