|Maurice Wilkins (1916-2004): New Zealand born Nobel Prize winning biophysicist|
Whilst the DNA aspect of this project is self evident, the ‘social responsibility’ requires explanation. This phrase embodies Maurice’s dual pursuit of a scientific profession but with a social consciousness. This distinct direction was present from his Cambridge student days where his anti-war activities led to him investigating the effect of incendiary bombs (the devastation that they ensured had only just been witnessed during the Spanish Civil War). Despite, and in some ways because of his work on the Manhattan project, Maurice became an ardent opponent of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a member of organisations such as CND and Pugwash. In 1968, his opposition to biological and chemical weapons led him into contact with Hilary and Stephen Rose and together they set up the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science with Maurice serving as President. The initial aims of the society were to challenge the belief that science was a ‘pure knowledge’ that only caused harm through its application and therefore ridding the scientist any mental anguish on the ethical implications of this research. This reductionist approach to science was abhorrent to Maurice who believed the practice of science to be embedded with human values and should therefore be made to be held accountable for its impact on society. His passionate belief that the broader implications of science should be taught led to the creation of the “Social impact of the biosciences” which is run to this day in the Biophysics department here at King’s.
|Fortieth Anniversary celebration of the discovery of the structure of DNA (1993). Pictured (left-right), Raymond Gosling, Herbert Wilson, Maurice Wilson, Alexander Stokes.|