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Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood.’ Thus James Watson opens his notorious account of the discovery of the structure of DNA which won him, Crick and Maurice Wilkins a Nobel Prize in 1962. Whichever other of Watson’s judgments have been controversial – notably his dismissal of Rosalind Franklin, from whom, courtesy of Wilkins, he and Crick were provided with the crucial X-ray photographs of DNA crystals – his assessment of Crick has scarcely been disputed ...


Ed Regis, 26 May 1994

The Beat of a Different Drum: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman 
by Jagdish Mehra.
Oxford, 630 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 19 853948 7
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... biology and even here did work that was later cited by researchers in the field, including Francis Crick. Feynman made advances in subjects ranging from nanotechnology to quark jets to the fundamental limits of computation. He seemed to know everything and everyone in science. He was well-loved by most of those who knew him, all of whom had ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin, 20 March 2003

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... from physicists and astronomers. Best known among them are the Nobel laureates James Watson and Francis Crick; less well known is Rosalind Franklin, who died in 1958 aged 37. Today many believe that, had she lived, she, too, would have won a Nobel Prize for her pivotal contribution to the work on DNA and subsequently on the structure of the tobacco ...

In the Library

Inigo Thomas, 25 April 2013

... the trellises on the cafeteria’s north-facing terrace is the building site of the forthcoming Francis Crick Institute, whose research laboratories will open in 2015: 1500 people are expected to work there. To the west is the Ossulston Estate, or the ‘Ring Road of the Proletariat’, as it’s also known, a Grade II listed housing project inspired ...

Triple Life

Brian Pippard, 23 November 1989

Schrödinger: Life and Thought 
by Walter Moore.
Cambridge, 513 pp., £25, August 1989, 9780521354349
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... structure and behaviour of genes and other constituents of the living organism. Among them were Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, and one cannot doubt that Schrödinger’s little, flawed classic was an instigator of one of the most significant scientific advances of the ...


Nicholas Wade, 20 September 1984

A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock 
by Evelyn Fox Keller.
Freeman, 235 pp., £13.95, July 1984, 0 7167 1433 7
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A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube 
by S.E. Luria.
Harper and Row, 229 pp., £12.50, May 1984, 0 06 015260 5
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... many discoveries have been made almost simultaneously by two or three scientists ... If Watson and Crick had not discovered the double helix structure for DNA it would probably have been discovered by someone else within a few weeks or months ... Likewise, if I had not discovered restriction and modification of bacteriophage they would have been discovered ...

On the Delta Variant

Rupert Beale, 1 July 2021

... or Medicine in 2019. One of them was Peter Ratcliffe, the clinical research director of the Francis Crick Institute, where I work. He began his Nobel lecture by presenting some of the data Fitzgerald collected.There is much still to discover about the physiology of oxygen sensing, but there’s no mystery at all about what happens when you deprive ...

Comet Mania

Simon Schaffer, 19 February 1981

The comet is coming! 
by Nigel Calder.
BBC, 160 pp., £8.75, November 1980, 0 563 17859 0
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... the Earth’s atmosphere after the impact of a comet. Neither of these ideas is particularly new: Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, appealed to comets as the origin of life on Earth in his theory of ‘directed panspermia’; in 1684 the anonymous author of a book called Cometomantia explained that ‘we must expect ...

Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... of research. By contrast, that mainstream takes very seriously an unguarded remark of the youthful Francis Crick, who once announced to the lunchtime crowd at the Eagle in Cambridge: ‘Jim and I have discovered the secret of life.’ Watson and Crick’s identification of the molecular structure of DNA was followed by ...


Rupert Beale, 4 March 2021

... knife, into the outer membranes of our cells and pull them apart. Structural biologists at the Francis Crick Institute have catalogued ten different conformations that Spike adopts to achieve this goal – complicated and fascinating stuff. This gives antibodies plenty of chances, however, to stick to Spike in such a way as to disrupt it: if you ...

Get the jab!

Rupert Beale, 17 December 2020

... testing are much more likely to work. A variety of such approaches have been employed. At the Francis Crick Institute we test everyone individually every week. It’s a big effort, but keeps our laboratories and our testing pipeline open. It’s possible to make this approach work on a larger scale. Cambridge University designed a pooled testing ...

How to Get Another Thorax

Steven Rose: Epigenetics, 8 September 2016

... of the theory, epigenetics faded from view. With​ the discovery of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James Watson in the 1950s, there was a renewed conviction among biologists – especially the physicists and engineers turned biologists like Crick – that what was needed was a ruthless reductionism. It ...

Unmaking mysteries

Mark Ridley, 1 September 1983

Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... of learning anything from anybody’; and everyone else who doubts the hope of progress, such as Francis Galton, for the ‘air of almost exultant scorn in his description of the uselessness of a man’s trying to better himself beyond the degree of his innate capacities’; there are other kinds of psychologists too – psychoanalysts, with their system ...

Dangerous Misprints

M.F. Perutz, 26 September 1991

by Jerry Bishop and Michael Waldholz.
Touchstone, 352 pp., £8.99, September 1991, 0 671 74032 6
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... that so simple a molecule could specify genetic information, but its role became clear when Francis Crick and Jim Watson in Cambridge determined its three-dimensional structure. Their famous double helix showed how the genetic information is written on DNA and how it is copied every time a cell divides. Some years after this, scientists also ...


Daniel Kevles, 17 August 1989

Thinking about science: Max Delbrück and the Origins of Molecular Biology 
by Ernst Peter Fischer and Carol Lipson.
Norton, 334 pp., £13.95, January 1989, 9780393025088
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Is science necessary? Essays on Science and Scientists 
by M.F. Perutz.
Barrie and Jenkins, 285 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 7126 2123 7
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... from one generation to the next. This was the problem which utterly absorbed James Watson and Francis Crick as they struggled at the beginning of the Fifties, in Perutz’s group at the Cavendish, to unravel the structure of DNA. They spent a lot of time lounging around and arguing – indulging in imaginative guesswork, one might say, instead of ...

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