Debt acknowledged

August 20, 2004

The response of Julia King to the death of Francis Crick is more than a little churlish ("Not many scientists can claim immortality", August 6).

If King looks up the Watson-Crick paper in Nature (1953), she will find that it is followed in the journal by two papers from the workers at King's College London, the first by Maurice Wilkins, Alec Stokes and Herbert Wilson and the second by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling.

These papers show the X-ray diffraction pictures on which the Cambridge DNA structure was based, and this debt was acknowledged by Watson and Crick in their paper.

I joined the King's College laboratory a year later as a graduate student.

Gossip made it clear that had there been easier interactions among the King's workers, a correct structure might have been first derived in London, but all agreed that, as things turned out, the honour was due to Cambridge. These seem to be the facts, whatever mythology may have developed.

The responses of Hugh Huxley and Nigel Unwin better describe the Francis Crick whom I admired and respected. Your headline sums it up: indeed, he is immortal.

Gerald Elliot
Cardiff University

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