Maurice Wilkins is in the news yet again thanks to the discovery of a lost series of correspondence between him and Francis Crick on DNA. It had been previously believed that the early correspondence between him and Francis Crick had been lost in a moment of over-zealous house-keeping. However, due to moving laboratory muddle, part of Francis Crick's papers were mixed with those of his long-time DNA collaborator, Sidney Brenner while they shared an office in Cambridge. Brenner's papers were recently donated to the Cold Spring Harbor Library Archives, where nine archival boxes of material belonging to Francis Crick came to light.
|John Steinbeck, Maurice Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick at the 1962 Nobel Prize ceremony (Steinbeck won his for his contribution to literature)|
The correspondence with Wilkins consists of thirty four letters and three postcards between 1951 and 1964, which include eleven written between 1951 and 1953. The newly discovered letters shed light on the tensions present between the two laboratories, the strained relationship between Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin and the informal arrangements behind the famous note by Watson and Crick to Nature on the structure of DNA. Of particular interest is the complaint regarding Crick's dismissal of the Bruce Fraser DNA model; the anger felt by Randall towards Watson and Crick's involvement in DNA and above all the good humour and wit found in Wilkins letters to Crick that reflect their strong friendship.
The new Nature article by Alexander Gann and Jann Witkowski, entitled "The lost correspondence of Francis Crick" gives excellent insight into the letters and a chance to view samples of the correspondence:
One or two other news articles also worth perusing are:
An article on the discovery and context around the letters can also be read on the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/29/letters-dna-double-helix-francis-crick
To hear an interview with Raymond Gosling's witty and informed take on the newly discovered letters for BBC Radio 4's Today programme: