Francis Harry Compton Crick was born in Northampton, England, in 1916, and received his bachelor degree in physics from University College London in 1937. His doctoral studies were interrupted by World War II, during which he designed mines for the British navy. After the war he switched from physics to molecular biology, and, with a Medical Research Council fellowship, he went to Cambridge University. There he joined Max Perutz’s protein structure group at the Cavendish Laboratory and earned his Ph.D. in 1953.
In the summer of 1951, Crick began his famed collaboration with James D. Watson, which culminated in the description of the double helical structure of DNA in the journal Nature on April 25, 1953. For their discovery Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, together with Maurice Wilkins. Crick regarded the discovery as confirmation of his conviction that the origins and processes of life, including human consciousness and free will, can be reduced to fundamental laws of physics and chemistry, and can thus be explained entirely in rational, scientific terms.
After 1953, Crick devoted most of his effort to solving the genetic coding problem, the problem of how genes controlled the synthesis of proteins. In 1961, he and Sydney Brenner reported evidence that the genetic code is to be read three letters at a time, evidence that made possible the full elucidation of the code by 1966. Crick then turned to developmental biology, the study of how genes control the growth and specialization of organs.
In 1976, Crick moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, where he took up neurobiology, his other long-standing scientific interest. He never let up in his passionate pursuit of scientific knowledge, editing his latest article just days before his death from colon cancer on July 28, 2004, a