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Francis Crick, Co-Discoverer of DNA Structure, Dies at 88

NEW YORK, July 29 (GenomeWeb News) - Francis Crick, who with James Watson discovered and elucidated the double-helix structure of DNA, has passed away at age 88, according to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where Crick was a researcher and formerly served as president.


Crick, who was suffering from colon cancer, died Wednesday at Thornton Hospital of the University of California, San Diego.


"Francis Crick will be remembered as one of the most brilliant and influential scientists of all time," Richard Murphy, the Salk Institute's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "He will be missed as a gentleman, a role model, and a person who has contributed so much to our understanding of biology and the health of mankind. For those of us privileged to know him at Salk, he will also be remembered as a dear friend. "


Crick was born in Northhampton, England, on June 8, 1916. He studied physics at University College in London, and received his BS in 1937. His PhD work was interrupted by World War II, when he worked to design magnetic and acoustic mines for the British Admiralty. In 1947, Crick began studying biological research at the Strangeways Laboratory in Cambridge, and in 1949, he joined the Medical Research Council Unit at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory as a laboratory scientist, studying x-ray diffraction by helix. There, in 1951, he began working with young James Watson, leading to the 1953 proposal of the double helix and the replication scheme.


Watson and Crick, along with their colleague Maurice Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery.


After the work on the double helix, Crick collaborated with Sydney Brenner, professor of genetic medicine at Cambridge, to develop the adaptor hypotheses about protein synthesis and the genetic code.


Between 1966 and 1976, Crick worked on embryology. He moved to the Salk institute in 1976, where he began work into understanding the brain and neural correlates of consciousness.


At one point, he said he hoped his future contributions would be "to excite younger people to study the problem of consciousness."


According to one of Crick's collaborators, Kristof Koch, a professor of neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology, "Francis delighted in playing the important role of devil's advocate for several generations of young researchers."

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