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The Francis Crick Papers

Letter from Francis Crick to Jacques Monod pdf (186,989 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Francis Crick to Jacques Monod
In this letter Crick appraised the contributions made by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin to the discovery of the double helix, stating that "the data which really helped us to obtain the structure was mainly obtained by Rosalind Franklin." In addition, Crick claimed credit for James Watson and himself for stimulating recent crystallographic studies of virus structures, studies the two first undertook when Watson returned to the Cavendish for a second extended visit in 1955.
Finally, Crick mentioned the beginning of his affiliation with the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (186,989 Bytes)
1961-12-31 (December 31, 1961)
Crick, Francis
Monod, Jacques
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
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Reproduced with permission of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Exhibit Category:
Deciphering the Genetic Code, 1958-1966
Box Number: 82
Folder Number: PP/CRI/H/3/5/1
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Notes and Drafts
SubSeries: Notes and Drafts 1961-1965
SubSubSeries: Jacques Monod
Folder: "The structure of DNA and the replication mechanism"
31st December, 1961.
Dear Jacques,
I enclose a brief screed on the DNA story. I found it very hard to write. It really needs a lengthy review, but I have made it only a sketch. This is particularly true of the work since 1953, the volume and complexity of which has defeated me. Nor have I dealt with work "inspired" by the DNA structure, such as Benzer's work, and all the ideas on coding, including our latest paper.
I hope it is not far from the sort of thing you wanted. It really is most kind of you to take all this trouble on our behalf.
On the matter of Maurice Wilkins. I think his contribution was twofold. He indicated the careful x-ray work on DNA, and since 1953 he has done numerous extensive, accurate and painstaking studies on it. It is true that he has worked rather slowly, but then hardly anybody else has done anything. However, the data which really helped us to obtain the structure was mainly obtained by Rosalind Franklin, who died a few years ago. It should also be remembered that for a whole year Jim and I tried to get Maurice to solve the structure by our approach, without success. It was only after we learnt of Pauling's structure that we asked and obtained Maurice's permission to work on the problem. Nevertheless, for the last eight years Maurice has done all the hard work on the problem and that should be recognized.
Though I expect it is outside your brief I am always slightly surprised that people do not refer more to our ideas on virus structure. The idea of subunits in spherical viruses had been suggested before, but it had made no impression. All the modern X-ray work on viruses came about because of our influence, including Rosalind Franklin's excellent work on TMV, which was based on Jim's evidence that the structure was helical. In recent years the e/m work has confirmed and extended our ideas (See a recent review in Virology by Horne and someone), especially the suggestion of 5-fold symmetry, which was quite original. The basic reason for subunits - that the information the RNA could carry is limited - was also quite original. At the time it even seemed daring! How times change.
The MRC have now agreed that I can be associated with the Institute of Biology by the device of employing me "past-time", and adjusting my salary. I have written unofficially to Jonas, and when I have it on paper from the MRC I will write more formally. The papers I have been sent so far are all old stuff.
Do let me know as soon as possible about the proposed Paris meeting. Incidentally, my home telephone number is Cambridge 57163, not 57613!
With best wishes,
F. H. C. Crick.
P.S. Reprints follow shortly.
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