Francis Harry Compton Crick & James Dewey Watson


Our people paper consists of the two men, which discovered the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule in 1951, describing the structure as a double helix. These scientists are known as Dr. Francis Harry Compton Crick and Dr. James Dewey Watson.

Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on June 8, 1916 in Northampton, England. He is the elder son of Harry Crick and Annie Elizabeth Wilkins. His brother A.F. Crick is a doctor in New Zealand.

At the age of 24, Francis Harry Compton Crick married Ruth Doreen Dodd. They had a son Michael F.C. Crick who is also a scientist. The marriage however only lasted seven years, from 1940-1947. Two years later in 1949, Francis Crick married Odile Speed. They are currently and have two daughters, Gabrielle and Jacqueline Crick and reside in a home named "The Golden Helix."

Francis Crick's education began at Northampton Grammar School and Mill Hill School in London. He studied physics at University College in London and received a B.Sc. in 1937. He tried to pursue a Ph.D. but was prevented because of the-war in 1939. Then finally in 1954, he received his Ph.D. at Caius College in Cambridge and worked on a thesis called "X-ray diffraction: polypeptides and proteins."

In 1951, Francis Crick met James Dewey Watson, who was 23 years of age. This is when worked together on the DNA molecule's structure discovering it as the double helix.

His major awards aside from the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for the double helix include: the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer of the French Academy of Sciences in 1961, and the Award of Merit of the Gairdner Foundation in 1962. Together with James Dewey Watson he was a Warren Triennial Prize Lecturer in 1959 and received a Research Corporation Award in 1962. In 1960, he James Watson and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins received a Lasker Foundation Award. In 1962, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of University College in London. He was a Fellow of Churchill College in Cambridge in 1960-61, and is now a nonresident Fellow of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California.

James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 6, 1928. He was born to James D. Watson and Jean Mitchell. He is of English, Scottish and Irish descent.

James Dewey Watson remains single to this day and spends his free time bird-watching and walking.

James Watson's education began at Horace Mann Grammar School in Chicago. He went to South Shore High School for two years and then received a scholarship to the University of Chicago, which he began in 1943 at the very young age of 15. At the age of 19, he received a B.Sc. degree in Zoology. And it was at this time in his life that he an interest in genetics was sparked. He received a Fellowship for graduate study in Zoology at Indiana University in Bloomington where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1950.

In 1951, James Watson met Maurice Wilkins and saw the x-ray diffraction pattern of crystalline DNA. This experience tuned him into the structural chemistry of nucleic acids end proteins. At this time, James Watson also met Francis Harry Compton Crick and together they discovered in March 1953, the structure of the DNA molecule known as the double helix.

Some of James Watson's accomplishments include the John Collins Warren Prize of the Massachusetts General Hospital with Francis Crick in 1959. Also in 1959, the Eli Lilly Award in Biochemistry. In 1960, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins he received the Lasker Award. In 1962, he received the Research Corporation Prize with Francis Crick. He is member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and foreign membership of the Danish Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a consultant to the President's Scientific Advisory Committee. And last but not least, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for the discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule.

In conclusion, we would like to recommend a film about these two fascinating scientists known as The Race for the Double Helix.

Information may be found at


Isela Macias

Prabhati Chandrashekar


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