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Trove of Treasures

A virtual museum and library of the history of the science of modern genetics, including the original papers, notes, correspondences, photographs, and ephemera of Francis Crick, James Watson, Fred Sanger, Rosalind Franklin, and others is now open online, courtesy of the Wellcome Trust.

The Wellcome Library's Codebreakers website offers free access to the digitized papers that led to a mid-century explosion in the life sciences as well as a wide range of supporting materials such as a history of genetics from Darwin's time to today.

The Francis Crick archive includes extensive correspondences, scientific notes, lab notebooks, writings in draft, and papers from more than 50 years that trace the rise of molecular biology, including the earliest sketches of the double helix. Sanger's lab notes offer details into his research into the earliest development of DNA sequencing tools. Rosalind Franklin's scientific notes and papers are available, as are posthumous materials and her X-ray diffraction 'photo 51' picture of DNA.

The archive also includes papers from numerous other biologists and more than 650 digitized books on the history and social aspects of the genetics revolutions, and another half million pages will be added to Codebreakers over the next six months.

The project is the first phase of an effort that will eventually include integrated online content, films, more photographs, and audio covering the wide history of medicine and biomedical science.

The digitization project has cost £3.9 million ($5.9 million) so far, and another £5.8 million has been set aside to continue digitizing Wellcome Library's other holdings.

"Codebreakers reveals the extraordinarily convoluted networks of influence, insight and inspiration that lie behind crucial moments of scientific discovery. It is a project made possible by a creative partnership with five outstanding libraries and archives, sharing a goal of free and open access. Together, our collections offer an extraordinarily rich research resource documenting one of the most significant periods of scientific innovation in human history," says Wellcome Library head Simon Chaplin in a statement

The archive is a collaboration between Wellcome Trust, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Churchill Archives Centre Cambridge University, the University of Glasglow, King's College London, and University College London, and includes papers and materials from all of these partners.

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