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Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-2004)


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Genes and Genomes

Francis Harry Compton Crick, who co-discovered the helical structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 and went on to shape the early agenda of molecular biology, died this week in La Jolla, California. He was 88 years old.

Last year, the fiftieth anniversary of his DNA discovery, made with James D. Watson, was marked by celebrations around the world—an anniversary that coincided with the completion, more or less, of the sequencing of the human genome.

In honor of Crick’s contributions to DNA science and genomics, GNN highlights two entries about his work from our Genetics and Genomics Timeline.

Francis H. C. Crick
1957—Francis H. C. Crick sets out the agenda of molecular biology

In a landmark address to the British Society of Experimental Biology, entitled "On Protein Synthesis," Francis Crick proposed ideas that proved of the greatest importance to DNA research. Written for a general audience as much as for biochemists and molecular biologists, the paper became a classic that, as Horace Freeland Judson wrote in a historical appraisal, "permanently altered the logic of biology."

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1953—Crick and Watson discover that the structure of DNA meets the unique requirements for a substance that encodes genetic information

Genes, by mid-twentieth century, were located to the chromosomes, known to be composed of protein and deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The discovery of its molecular structure, by Francis Crick and James Watson, immediately suggested that DNA—not a protein, as was widely imagined—was the master molecule that contains the genes, self-replicates and recombines during reproduction.

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—Edward R. Winstead


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