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The Francis Crick Papers

Letter from John T. Edsall to Francis Crick pdf (123,250 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from John T. Edsall to Francis Crick
Like most scientists, Edsall favored publication of Watson's autobiographical account, The Double Helix, despite Crick's objection that the book violated "scientific ethics."
Number of Image Pages:
1 (123,250 Bytes)
1967-03-14 (March 14, 1967)
Edsall, John T.
Crick, Francis
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
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Reproduced with permission of David T. Edsall.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Ethics, Professional
Exhibit Category:
The Discovery of the Double Helix, 1951-1953
Box Number: 75
Folder Number: PP/CRI/I/3/8/4
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Publication
SubSeries: Other Publications
SubSubSeries: Watson, The Double Helix
Folder: [Correspondence Concerning Publication]
14 March 1967
Dear Francis:
I enclose a copy of a letter that I have written to Maurice Wilkins about Jim Watson's book. Since the matter concerns you so intimately, and since you asked Jim in one of your letters to consult me, I am sending this on to you. You and Maurice have raised some very difficult questions. It would require the wisdom of Solomon to answer them adequately. Since I lack any such wisdom I can only set down what I think.
I was shown one of your letters to Mr. Pusey in which you raised an issue of scientific ethics. As I remember it, you said that it is generally a rule of conduct among scientists that one participant in a joint research does not publish his results without the agreement of those who have taken part in the work with him. As far as research is concerned you are of course absolutely right about this. However, I think that the issue here is of a different sort. Jim is not writing a research report but an account of past events in which he was a major participant. Publication of personal recollections of this sort, it seems to me, does not require the approval of those who took part in the earlier events, although there is certainly every reason to check the account carefully for accuracy and fairness to the others who were involved. If politicians and generals had to get the approval of their former associates before publishing their memoirs the world would certainly have lost a great many books -- some bad ones to be sure, but also some excellent ones. I do not think that the rules relating to memoirs of scientists should be much more restrictive than those governing other people.
At any rate, that is the way I look upon it now. Do let me know whether it seems reasonable to you. Best wishes.
Yours sincerely,
John T. Edsall
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