William T. Astbury
Oswald T. Avery
Sir William Lawrence Bragg
Robert B. Corey
Francis H. C. Crick
R. D. B. (Bruce) Fraser
Alfred D. Hershey
Peter J. Pauling
Max F. Perutz
J. T. (John Turton) Randall
Alexander R. Todd
James D. Watson
Maurice H. F. Wilkins
View all Key Participants
Maurice H. F. Wilkins1916-2004
Former primary affiliation:
King's College London
Pictures and Illustrations
Published Papers and Official Documents
Manuscript Notes and Typescripts
"I hope you'll write to Prof. J. T. Randall, Kings College, Strand, London. His coworker,
Dr. M. Wilkins, told me he had some good fibre pictures of nucleic acid."
Gerald Oster. Letter to Linus Pauling. August 9, 1951.
"I gave Watson essentially the paper on nucleic acids, and after the 12th he showed
it. Morris [sic] Wilkins is supposed to be doing this work; Miss Franklin evidently
is a fool. Relations are now slightly strained due to the Watson-Crick entering the
field. They (W.C.) have some ideas and shall write you immediately. It is really up
to them and not to me to tell you about it. We tried to build your structure, and
succeeded, I think, it was pretty tight. Perhaps we should try the new one. They are
getting pretty involved with their own efforts, and losing objectivity."
Peter Pauling. Letter to Linus and Ava Helen Pauling. March 14, 1953.
"We felt we could hardly omit any mention of your structure nor did we feel it reasonable
to suppress our doubts about it."
James Watson Francis Crick. Letter to Linus Pauling. March 21, 1953.
"A NOTE ABOUT HONEST JIM: Today Dr. Leonard Hamilton telephoned me from New York.
He has been asked by Wilkins (with whom he has worked) and Crick to arrange that a
lawyer write a letter to Pusey, President of Harvard, objecting to the publication
by Harvard University Press of the book Honest Jim. He asked if I would be willing
to join in. I said that I would like to know what was said in the letter, abut that
I did authorize that I be referred to in the letter, as well as Wilkins and Crick.
I also said that I would pay part of the legal expense. This does not, however, comit
[sic] me, I said, to any further action, such as a libel suit."
Linus Pauling. Linus Pauling - Note to Self. Deer Flat Ranch, Salmon Creek, Big Sur, California (typed). May 4, 1967.
"Most people believe that Wilkins could have done it, and they are sure that Pauling
could have done it before Watson and Crick, had he been given the data. It is interesting
that when Corey went to King's in 1952, Rosalind Franklin took him into a lab and
projected the DNA pictures, but Corey was a gentleman and did not attempt to convey
this information, or did not remember it precisely enough to give it to Pauling."
Robert Olby. Interview with Gerald James Holton. Plenary Sessions of the Conference on Transforming
Conceptions of Modern Science, Bellagio, Italy. September 1969.
"...it was Wilkins' experimental work that put Watson and Crick on the right track."
Linus Pauling. Linus Pauling oral history interview, American Philosophical Society. March 1, 1971.
"The glib assumption that he could have come up with it - Pauling just didn't try.
He can't really have spent five minutes on the problem himself. He can't have looked
closely at the details of what they did publish on base pairing, in that paper; almost
all the details are simply wrong"
Maurice Wilkins. The Eighth Day of Creation. 1979.
"Rosalind Franklin was a very intelligent woman, but she really had no reason for
believing that DNA was particularly important. She was trained in physical chemistry.
I don't think she'd ever spent any length of time with people who thought DNA was
important. And she certainly didn't talk to Maurice [Wilkins] or to John Randall,
then the professor at Kings."
James Watson. Nature, 302: 653. April 1983.
I discovered that Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling were working together on the
structure of DNA, but not in collaboration with Wilkins. Moreover, they had the best
DNA preparation. This was a preparation of calf thymus NaDNA that had been given to
Wilkins some two years earlier by Rudolf Signer, of Bern, and from gels of which material
Wilkins was able to draw thin, uniform fibres showing sharp extinction between crossed
polarizers. Gosling and Wilkins had obtained X-ray diffraction photographs from these
fibres indicating a high degree of crystallinity, and were a great improvement on
those obtained earlier by W. T. Astbury and Florence Bell in their pioneering studies
of DNA. They achieved this by passing hydrogen through water and then into the X-ray
camera so that the fibres were kept in a moist atmosphere during the exposure.
Hugh Wilson. H. R. Wilson, "The double helix and all that," Reflections on biochemistry, TIBS 13. July 1988.
"Let's just start with the Pauling thing. There's a myth which is, you know, that
Francis and I basically stole the structure from the people at King's. I was shown
Rosalind Franklin's x-ray photograph and, Whooo! that was a helix, and a month later
we had the structure, and Wilkins should never have shown me the thing. I didn't go
into the drawer and steal it, it was shown to me, and I was told the dimensions, a
repeat of 34 angstroms, so, you know, I knew roughly what it meant and, uh, but it
was that the Franklin photograph was the key event. It was, psychologically, it mobilised
James Watson. James Watson, Center for Genomic Research Inauguration, Harvard. September 30, 1999.
"In 1953 Maurice [Wilkins] cabled me in Australia to write a note from him to submit
to Nature setting out details of my 1951 structure, but unfortunately he never sent it off...I
managed to recover a copy of the 'note that was never sent' from Maurice. Unfortunately
he could not locate the diagrams and I did not make copies (remember this was before
the days of photocopiers!)"
R. D. B. Fraser. Personal communication with the OSU Libraries Special Collections. October 31, 2002.