About Dr Francis Crick

The Francis Crick papers: the triplet code, 1961.


Francis Crick (1916-2004) was one of Britain's great scientists. He is best known for his work with James Watson which led to the identification of the structure of DNA in 1953, drawing on the work of Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and others.

This discovery proved to be of enormous importance to biomedical research - and to life and health - and earned Crick, Watson and Wilkins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

Crick began his scientific career in physics, obtaining a BSc from University College London in 1937. During World War Two he worked as a scientist for the Admiralty Research Laboratory, working on the design of magnetic and acoustic mines.

In 1947 Crick made the transition from physics into biology, which he described as "almost as if one had to be born again". His early studies at Cambridge were supported by a studentship from the Medical Research Council (MRC). 

In 1949 Crick joined the MRC unit headed by Max Perutz, which subsequently became the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. During this period he worked on the X-ray crystallography of proteins, obtaining his PhD in 1954.

Watson and Crick

Crick's research

A critical influence in Crick's career was his friendship, beginning in 1951, with James Watson, then a young man of 23.

They shared an interest in the fundamental question of how genetic information could be stored in molecular form, leading in 1953 to the proposal of the double-helical structure for DNA.

Crick then concentrated on the biological implications of the structure of the DNA molecule, developing further insights into the genetic code − including the so called 'central dogma' explaining the flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein.

In subsequent years he expanded his interests to focus on how the brain works and the nature of consciousness.

We are named after Francis Crick in recognition of his contributions to understanding the genetic code, the key to understanding how living things work. During his life, he also expressed troubling views on eugenics, opinions that we do not in any way share.