Letter from Francis Crick to James D. Watson and Marshall W. Nirenberg
Crick here characterized his contribution to the elucidation of the genetic code as that of "a collator of information
rather than a producer," a theoretician rather than an experimentalist. Moreover, he underlined the collaborative nature
of research on the genetic code.
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1965-04-29 (April 29, 1965)
Watson, James D.
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
I am writing to you both because you are the two Chairman of the Informal Exchange Group on Nucleic Acids and the Genetic
Code. I want to suggest that at the end of the Gordon Conference on Nucleic Acids a statement be issued on the state of that
Genetic Code. As you know I have found myself involved in this, but as a collater of information rather than a producer.
I am constantly having to provide copies of my private version of the code to interested people. Moreover this has been of
some use. For example it has helped Streisinger et al. decipher their (- +) double mutant in the phage lysozyme. Also, as
a result of it, one abnormal haemoglobin has already been shown to be incorrect by a colleague of Lehmann's (Hb I should
be Lys Glu, not Lys Asp).
This year's Gordon Conference should provide an ideal opportunity, not to present a final version of the code, but the
best version of most of it. It will also be of value since it will show what remains to be established.
The exact mechanism of publication we could leave till the Conference. Probably a short, joint, note to Science would be
the best. However, I thought it might be sensible to sound you both out on the matter now. Its obvious that no one person
has enough certain data to establish the code by himself, and also that by pooling all the information we can already arrive
at most of the code.