Letter from Francis Crick to Marshall W. Nirenberg
In this letter Crick demonstrated his characteristic concern for maintaining social conventions of openness, collegiality,
and expeditiousness in communicating scientific ideas among researchers. Only if such conventions were maintained, Crick
repeatedly insisted, could priority of scientific discoveries be established, and personal credit and professional esteem
be granted accordingly.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (148,339 Bytes)
1966-04-21 (April 21, 1966)
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
Gobind has sent me a copy of your paper with Kellogg, Doctor and Loebel in PNAS. Be and I are both upset to see this paper
appear in such a way. You will recall that I asked you in a letter dated 5th January whether you had published "the binding
studies presented at the Gordon Conference". In your reply of 14th January you referred only to your work on Holley's
RNA. You said nothing about other binding work, and allowed me to submit my paper without mentioning that you had work in
As you must realise Gobind's paper was held up for about a month by the Journal of Molecular Biology waiting for your
paper. It was only after I had telephoned you from Cornell that we asked the Editors to proceed with the refereeing. Even
then it was arranged that if your paper arrived in time it would be published at the same time as his. It was quite unethical
of you to submit a paper on 25th February on the same general subject, for rapid publication, without mentioning it to either
Gobind or myself, and at the same time to effectively delay the publication of his paper.
You are, of course, in a general way under no obligation to tell other workers what you have in press, but to pretend to tell
them, and to arrange publication with the, while simultaneously slipping a paper in another journal, is not the sort of thing
which will endear you to your friends.
I have, unfortunately, been involved in unpleasantness like this in the past, and I realise that one does not always see how
ones actions will look to other people, and that one can make errors of judgment when priority is at stake. Nevertheless
on the face of it I feel you owe both Gobind and me an explanation, if not an apology. Would you please write to me to explain