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scientists respond to the death of Maurice Wilkins

Maurice Wilkins, a Nobel laureate, played an important role in the discovery of the double helix of DNA.

Dr Matt Ridley, author of Genome and Nature Vs Nurture, said:

“Maurice Wilkins was a central figure in one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, the double helix of DNA, but his generosity and extreme modesty allowed others to share the prize. It was he who first obtained an X-ray image of DNA, he who taught Francis Crick about DNA, his photograph that inspired James Watson, and his suggestion that led to the recruitment of Rosalind Franklin to Kings College. But later, it was he who finally proved the double helix correct.”

Dr Stephen Minger, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, King’s College London, said:

“Maurice Wilkins was a very important scientist who probably didn’t get the credit he deserved for discoveries that have revolutionised science. He is one of the pioneers of molecular biology and we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are now without him.”

Professor Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics, University College London, said:

“Maurice Wilkins shows that what is important is the science not the people: Wilkins was always much more interested in the science. However, the death of this great scientist should remind us that to get renaissance geniuses like Wilkins and Crick we need to attract more second-rate geniuses like me and that is just not happening. The fact that some universities are being forced to downsize their biology units because of a shortage of students will have Wilkins turning in his grave.”

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Developmental Genetics, National Institute for Medical Research (MRC), said:

“If it hadn’t been for the X-ray data that resulted from Wilkins’s work, Watson and Crick wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint the structure of DNA.”

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