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The Francis Crick Papers

Letter from Francis Crick to Van R. Potter pdf (74,702 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Francis Crick to Van R. Potter
Number of Image Pages:
1 (74,702 Bytes)
1969-04-17 (April 17, 1969)
Crick, Francis
Potter, Van R.
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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Exhibit Category:
Embryology and the Organization of DNA in Higher Organisms, 1966-1976
Box Number: 10
Folder Number: PP/CRI/D/1/1/16
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence
SubSeries: Alphabetical Correspondence
SubSubSeries: Correspondence 1
Folder: Correspondence P
17 April 1969
Dear Van
It was nice of you to write to me about ZYGON, but I'm most unenthusiastic about that sort of thing. In any case, I'd already said no.
As to the Central Dogma, the trouble is that few people understand exactly what I meant. It does not say that you cannot translate from RNA to DNA. On that point it is silent.
It does say that the cell cannot translate backwards, that is from either DNA or RNA to protein. "Translate" means here exactly what it means in the forward direction. The residue by residue substitution of the sequence of symbols in one language for the corresponding sequence in the other, as given by some set of coding rules. Of course, a back translation, on the present forward code, would be ambiguous, but that is not an essential objection. The Central Dogma states, in effect, that the mechanism for this detailed back-translation does not exist in the cell. It does not state, as poor misguided Barry Commoner seems to think, that changes in the proteins making up the machinery of protein synthesis cannot produce errors in translation in the forward direction. Nobody ever said this, and when I invented the term Central Dogma I was aware of this possibility (which is implicit in the adaptor hypothesis) and tried to frame my definition to include this. Obviously I failed! But you must realize that Barry Commoner has been behaving in a ridiculous manner for years, and that is why nobody thinks it worthwhile to reply to him.
Yours sincerely
F.H.C. Crick
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