Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“The Life and Work of Linus Pauling (1901-1994): A Discourse on the Art of Biography.”

February 28 - March 2, 1995

Video: Introduction of Francis Crick. Ken Van Holde

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6:26 - Abstract | Biography | More Videos from Session 1: Linus C. Pauling Day Lecture

Related Names: Francis Crick


Melvin George: Here to introduce our speaker tonight is a distinguished professor of the university, Dr. Ken van Holde.

Ken van Holde: It is indeed a solemn occasion when one has an introducer to the introducer.

It is a great pleasure to be able to introduce to you one of the greatest scientists of this century or any century. We're honoring tonight a man whose accomplishments are rivaled by very few in this or any other time.

I'd like to tell you a little bit about his background. Some of which most of you know, some of which you may not know. Francis Crick began his university studies at University College London as a student of physics and he intended to become a physicist. And had continued that through undergraduate work and unto the beginnings of graduate studies in 1939, when the war came along and interrupted these studies for a number of years. I think it's probably fortunate for all of us in biology that this happened because when Dr. Crick returned to science and studies in 1947 he had become enamored with biology. And he had the idea, which was very rare at that time, that there was a possibility of a molecular biology. A kind of biology based on the understanding of biological processes at the molecular level. And this was almost unique in those years.

He went to Cambridge University, at that point, and in 1949 began working with Max Perutz, who was one of the pioneers of x-ray diffraction studies of protein structure. This was 1949. Less than four years later Dr. Crick, not Dr. Crick at that point, Francis Crick along with James Watson made what is probably the most seminal and momentous discovery, or advance in biological sciences, since the time of Darwin. This was 1953, when the structure of DNA was announced to the world. I'd like to remind you that Dr. Crick was not Dr. Crick at that point, he was a graduate student. And I hope my graduate students are listening today.

All of you know about this moment in time. It's almost taught in grade schools at the present. What some of you may not know is the incredibly important role that Dr. Crick played in the development of molecular biology during the subsequent years. Practically all of the major advances over the next decade: understanding of transfer RNAs, so called adaptor hypothesis, the understanding of the role of messenger RNAs, encoding and what mutation really meant at the molecular level. These things were either anticipated by Dr. Francis Crick or he played a major role in their elucidation. I think his position in the field is best expressed by a statement from the great French molecular biologist, Jacques Monod, who said, "No one man discovered or created molecular biology, but one man dominates intellectually the whole field because he knows the most and he understands the most, Francis Crick." And that has been his status in the field of molecular biology for many years.

People like Francis Crick and Linus Pauling, the real giants of science, do not content themselves to stay in one field for decades or long periods. They find that the important questions have been answered and their insatiable curiosity takes them elsewhere. So it wasn't surprising, I think, to any of us, that in about 1977, Dr. Crick along with his move to the United States and the Salk Institute, made a radical change in his research interests and began studying what is probably the most difficult problem in science at the present time. The question of how the mind works, what is the molecular basis of cognitive processes? What is consciousness? Can it be explained at a molecular level? And this research continues at the present time. I think we may expect that much as he contributed to molecular biology in his genesis he will probably continue to contribute in these new areas. So it's especially appropriate and very pleasant to be able to introduce Dr. Francis Crick to speak to you this evening about Linus Pauling's work. Thank you.


Watch Other Videos

Session 1: Linus C. Pauling Day Lecture

Session 2: The Biographer's Picture of Linus Pauling

Session 3: The Personal View of Linus Pauling and His Work

Session 4: Historians and Contemporary Scientific Biography

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