Francis Crick: biography and contributions of this physicist and biochemist

Francis Crick was trained in various scientific fields, was a British physicist, molecular biologist and neuroscientist.

He is known for his important contribution to molecular biology, and in the field of science in general, for the discovery and approach of the model of the double helix structure of the molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a discovery made in coll. Collaboration with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, who helped them win and be recognized by the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physics in 1962.

He has also made important contributions to the study and knowledge of consciousness and visual perception, increasing the frequency of transmission of images from the retina to the brain.

In this biography of Francis Crick we will see the most relevant facts and events from the life of this scientist.

    Brief biography of Francis Crick

    Francis Harry Compton Crick was born in Northampton, UK on June 8, 1916. He was the eldest son of Harry Crick, who worked in a shoe factory, and Anne Elizabeth Wilkins. His family was religious and as a child he attended the congregational church, although at the age of 12 he told his mother that he preferred not to continue attending, because from an early age he was was already interested in science. , and was not affiliated with any religion.

    He was a pupil at Northampton Grammar School, and given his good grades after graduation, at the age of 14 he was awarded a scholarship which allowed him to study mathematics, physics and chemistry at Mill Hill School, a boarding school.

    ultimately it was decided by the study of physics, but was not accepted to the University of Cambridge, so he enrolled as a student at University College London, a public university, which welcomes students of any race, political or religious beliefs.

    In 1937, at the age of 21, he graduated from University and began to conduct research for his doctorate., a thesis which attempted to measure the viscosity of water at high temperature. He conducted the study and experiments in the laboratory of physicist Adward Neville da Costa Andrade, although the development of his doctoral thesis was affected by the outbreak of World War II, leaving the laboratory where he was doing research destroyed by the explosion of a bomb.

    During the period of WWII between 1939 and 1945, he worked as a military physicist for the British Royal Navy, with the aim of creating magnetic and acoustic underwater mines that could not be detected by the German military.

    The war would mark a before and after in the training and research of Crick, because he would not resume his doctorate in physics, but this time became interested in other branches of science such as biology and chemistry. So in 1947 he began studying Biology, taking into account his previous training in Physics, he was able to realize his great achievements, this helped him to have a more open mind and a more positive and daring attitude towards the possible. advances in the field of Biology.

      Consolidation of your professional life

      In this way, Francis Crick immersed himself in biological study and research, working for two years at the Cambridge Strangeways Laboratory, where studied the properties and physical characteristics of the cytoplasm, a gelatinous liquid where the organelles of cells are located.

      He then moved to the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where he carried out research with chemists Max Perutz and John Kendrew under the supervision of Lawrence Bragg, a 1915 Nobel Prize-winning physicist for his contributions to X-ray crystallography. , an experiment aimed at the study and analysis of materials.

        The stage of the main contributions to genetics

        Bragg’s lab competed for the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, with physicist and biophysicist John Randall., who had not accepted Crick in his laboratory and with the chemist and biochemist Linus Pauling, the latter had demonstrated the alpha helical structure of proteins.

        Also in 1951, Francis Crick began to devote all his time and effort to the study of the structure of the DNA molecule, considered very important in the transmission of hereditary information from cells, with the biochemist James Dewey Watson and the biophysicist Maurice Wilkins who had obtained images of large molecules from the technique of X-ray crystallography.

        So after two years, on April 25, 1953, Crick and Watson published their discovery of Nature in the journal Nature. the three-dimensional helical structure of DNA, using the genetic skills analysis performed with the x-ray crystallography technique by chemist Rosalind Franklin and Crick’s knowledge of biology and Watson’s crystallography.

        Thus in 1962 Francis Crick and James Watson and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for their important discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Unfortunately Rosalind Franklin, who we have already seen contributing to her genetic crystallography as well, was unable to receive the award as she had died 4 years earlier at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer.

        Therefore a model was proposed which referred to both the physical and chemical properties of deoxyribonucleic acid., which is made up of 4 nitrogenous bases called adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine. The three-dimensional structure of DNA is in the form of a double helix composed of nitrogenous base pairs, adenine binds to thiamine and cytosine to guanine. In this way, a genetic code is created that helps identify and differentiate each person.

        In the same way the double helix structure allows DNA to be copied and thus generate other strands of nucleic acids, DNA and RNA. Based on this finding, the Crick and Watson duo focused on investigating the encryption of deoxyribonucleic acid molecules, a study that will last until 1966.

        Outside the scope of investigation, in 1963, the Order of the British Empire offered him the recognition of being called Sir, Knight, but in this case Francis did not accept and rejected the proposal.

        Given the great relevance of his discovery, also in 1972 he received the Royal Medal awarded annually by the Royal Society of London to scientists who have made important contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge.

          His visit to the United States

          In 1973, in the United States, he began to work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the name given to a complex of laboratories, considered world leaders in the world of biology, located at the University of San Diego in the State of California.

          It was during this period that it focuses on neuroscience, specifically in the study and research of the brain, making important contributions to the knowledge of consciousness and the transmission of images of the retina of the brain, a function of visual perception.

          Three years later, in 1976, he began teaching at the University of San Diego. In 1995, his health deteriorated, which led him to decide to step down as president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

          F. Crick has also published several works: Of Molecules and Men in 1967, in which he refers to the revolution in molecular biology underway at that time; Life ItSelf in 1981, where he elevates the nature of life from a scientific standpoint; What a Crazy Pursuit: A Personal View of the Scientific Discovery in 1988, where he talks about the work done on the proposed structure of DNA and the central dogma of molecular biology and finally The Amazing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search of the Soul in 1994, where consciousness is presented as the central theme.

          The last years and death

          It should be noted that in 1991, the Queen of England awarded him the United Kingdom Order of Merit for its services in the scientific field.

          Francis Crick finally died on July 28, 2004 at Thornton Hospital at the University of San Diego, California, at the age of 88 from colon cancer.

          Bibliographical references

          • Rose, J. (2006) Francis HC Crick. Latin American Journal of Psychology.
          • Perez, M. (2018) Francis Crick: Molecular Biology theorist. ResearchGate.

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