Step inside the scientific mind of the Crick

18 April 2017

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Open for Discovery, the Francis Crick Institute's first major exhibition, presents an honest portrait of scientific discovery - the setbacks, the happy accidents, the slow incremental progress and the big leaps forward.

The exhibition, running from 20 April to 28 October, takes an in-depth look at several ground-breaking discoveries across a range of research areas, including flu, cancer and tuberculosis. Situated within the new Crick building in St Pancras, where scientists continue to pursue biomedical discoveries, the exhibition is completely free to attend and open four days a week (Wednesday to Saturday).

Through examples from the Crick's own research, the exhibition shows discovery as a human endeavour - from initial curiosity and inquisitiveness, through perseverance, determination and patience, to the excitement and celebration of new advances.

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Each individual story of discovery is told through a rich mixture of objects, videos, audio, images, illustrations and text. From a facsimile of Francis Crick's letter to his 12-year-old son explaining the discovery of DNA's structure to the development of cutting-edge cancer treatments, the exhibition spans over a century of scientific discovery and includes rough drawings, raw experimental data, newspaper clippings, letters of correspondence, animations, physical models, microscopy images and medical equipment.

Scientific progress often comes from pursuing new and original questions. Visitors to the exhibition are being asked to contribute their own questions about human biology via an interactive exhibit. Members of the local community and scientists at the Crick have already submitted a range of questions, including 'Why and how do cells age?' and 'Why is my right arm the same size as my left one?'

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Sir Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, said: "Open for Discovery invites the public to reflect on the nature of scientific discovery, to find out what makes scientists tick and which questions keep them up late into the night. I hope visitors to the exhibition will come away with a sense of the sheer excitement of discovery, as well as the extraordinary intellectual and creative efforts involved."

The institute is named after Francis Crick, the British scientist known for his and James Watson's discovery of the structure of DNA, the famous double helix, for which he shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. The exhibition recounts this story of discovery. In particular, Crick's letter to his son captures his sense of excitement around the discovery as well as his commitment to explaining the revolutionary idea that genes can be understood directly in terms of the structure of the molecules of life.

Anna Faherty, the curator of the exhibition, said: "Visitors to Open for Discovery will find out why that annual bout of flu can be so troublesome, how cancer tricks your own body into helping it spread and when tuberculosis might finally become a malady of the past. But they'll also discover just what it takes to be at the forefront of scientific research, from asking the right questions and sharing ideas to overcoming hurdles and developing new ways of thinking."