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The Francis Crick Papers

Letter from Maurice H. F. Wilkins to Francis Crick pdf (863,619 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Maurice H. F. Wilkins to Francis Crick
Item is handwritten. Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
4 (863,619 Bytes)
Date Supplied:
ca. 1948-1953
Wilkins, Maurice H. F.
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 Maurice H. F. Wilkins.
Exhibit Category:
The Discovery of the Double Helix, 1951-1953
Box Number: 72
Folder Number: PP/CRI/H/1/42/4
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Notes and Drafts
SubSeries: Notes and Drafts 1950-1955
SubSubSeries: [Miscellaneous Papers Photocopied by Aaron Klug]
Folder: [Letters to Crick from Maurice Wilkins]
On train Innsbruck-Zurich
My dear Francis,
First let me tell you why I am here. I am doing a combined holiday and work trip again. I am going to see Signer the n.a. man in Bern and some of Frey Wyssling's people in Zurich. But the real trip was holiday. First to Munich to pick up a young friend of mine and see the artists beer cellars then to Innsbruck and Bolzano to see Italy but it is only half Italian and so we took a bus down to Lake Garda and stayed at the Gordone Riviera and walked under all the oranges on the trees in the streets and such like. Then a wonderful day skiing at Selva Wolkestein in the Dolomite and back to Innsbruck. Now I am on business [?] to visit the people in Switzerland.
But unfortunately I have to pay for almost all this trip by myself which is shocking and unusual for me but already I have another trip planned on the MRC (actually they didn't pay for my other trip but Unesco is other people). I have got much better X-ray pictures of the sperm squid which show very nicely a whole source [?] of helical layer lines and one inter micelle spacing [diagram]. These spots will not overlapp [?] when a disoriented specimen is used and I want to do it on living sperm in glass tubes. I believe your friend in Rome offered me use of an X-ray tube (I am sure he did) and what I want you to tell me is his address and name so I can confirm this and can go to Naples (you bet)
[written on margin of page, Thank you very much for the invitation but as I have just got back I would like to stay in town this weekend. Possibly I could come for the next Hardy Club?]
and collect the sperm and go by train to Rome and X ray them. They live for days and it is all very practicable. I don't know of any X ray set in Naples but will inquire there too but am very doubtful. I will bring my own camera and any ordinary tube will do. Also I will try living spermatophore in glass for orientation. No H2 and humidity fuss.
I did the transform of the micelle of N.a. projected on a plane at less than to the axis and have done more on the layer line intensities also repeated Oster and Riley on the long distances on wet gels oriented. I have found several of your suggestions very valuable but am fairly convinced for many reasons [?] the phosphates must be on the outside. There is just one part of the picture that still puzzles me but if helices are right we must hit on the explanation soon. I am really getting down to the job myself but haven't done anything on models and chemistry as I think the picture holds a key not yet recognized which will then more or less directly give us the model. I now take my own X ray pictures and have made new cameras (hence better sperm pictures). But I believe as you that the key to w. protein lies in the crystalline picture. The exact crystallinity is of interest in that it gives us definitely the general micelle arrangement if you follow me. Franklin barks often but doesn't succeed in biting me. Since I reorganized my time so that I can concentrate on the job, she no longer gets under my skin. I was in a bad way about it all when I last saw you.
When I saw Jim last before Christmas he said you people couldn't build a model along your lines if that is so it simplifies things abit anyway I am pretty certain the phosphates are on the outside. I won't start making any references to the 'business' between you people and us over n.a. but look forward to discussing all our latest ideas and results with you again. Why don't you come and have lunch with me when you are next in town?
About Naples we must also separate heads and tails (electrophacteraly?) and Geoffrey is in interested in isolating n.p. I think it could all be done in 2-3 weeks and be very worthwhile and cost MRC very little. The sperm is the only way I know of getting neat oriented live n.p. Also I took a nice picture of living rat thymus in a glass tube and think there is a whole new field there working with liquid cameras and monoch [?] (Franklins pets) to show the pictures of living nuclei or whole cells with negligible cytoplasm are the same as disoriented n.p. as isolated by biochemicals [?]. Thus we may be able to prove the helical idea for ordinary cells as well as special low water content cells such as sperm. But apart from little excursions of a day or so this must wait.
Did you hear I have got a Rco invitation? isn't it grand! In some ways I feel I am a very lucky fellow. And there I hope to collect sperm bundles which contain separate to chromosomes and do x ray pictures of each of the 2 chromosomes
in the cell spiralised [?] and unspiralised [?] etc. This is rather gilding the lily but may be very useful in a year or 2's time to link the X rays business more with real chromosomes. I hope I don't go to the devil with all these trips but so far I think they are well worthwhile from the work standpoint.
Give my nicest regards to Odile and tell her I thought of her while I looked at the oranges in Italy.
I hope Bragg neither barks nor bites and your unit is filled with happiness. If these hopes seem foolishly extravagant please forgive me.
Give my regards to John and tell him I wrote a series of letters to Chargaff.
Yours M.
Have you a better flat for me?
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