Wilkins, Maurice

The Third Man of the Double Helix : The Autobiography of Maurice Wilkins

Wilkins, Maurice - The Third Man of the Double Helix : The Autobiography of Maurice Wilkins, ebook


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Working with Watson and Crick on the structure of DNA was a third man, Maurice Wilkins, based at King's College London with co-worker Rosalind Franklin. Franklin died in 1958 and the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Double Helix was awarded to the three men in 1962. As Maurice Wilkins explains in The Third Man of the Double Helix, ' the Franklin/Wilkins story has often been told as an example of the unjustness of male scientists towards their women colleagues, and questions have
been raised over whether credit was distributed fairly when the Nobel Prize was awarded. I have found this situation distressing over the years, and I expect this book is in some ways my attempt to respond to these questions, and to tell my side of that story.' - ;Francis Crick and Jim Watson are well known for their discovery of the structure of DNA in Cambridge in 1953. But they shared the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Double Helix with a third man, Maurice Wilkins, a diffident physicist who did not enjoy the limelight. He and his team at King's College London had painstakingly measured the angles, bonds, and orientations of the DNA structure - data that inspired Crick and Watson's celebrated model - and they then spent many years
demonstrating that Crick and Watson were right before the Prize was awarded in 1962. Wilkins's career had already embraced another momentous and highly controversial scientific achievement - he had worked during World War II on the atomic bomb project - and he was to face a new controversy in the 1970s
when his co-worker at King's, the late Rosalind Franklin, was proclaimed the unsung heroine of the DNA story, and he was accused of exploiting her work.

Now aged 86, Maurice Wilkins marks the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the Double Helix by telling, for the first time, his own story of the discovery of the DNA structure and his relationship with Rosalind Franklin. He also describes a life and career spanning many continents, from his idyllic early childhood in New Zealand via the Birmingham suburbs to Cambridge, Berkeley, and London, and recalls his encounters with distinguished scientists including Arthur Eddington, Niels Bohr, and
J. D. Bernal. He also reflects on the role of scientists in a world still coping with the Bomb and facing the implications of the gene revolution, and considers, in this intimate history, the successes, problems, and politics of nearly a century of science. -

Keywords: SCIENCE / General SCI000000

Oxford University Press
Publication year
Natural Sciences
Technology, Energy, Traffic

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