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Luck in science


I’d never thought I was anything very special
Francis Crick Scientist
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Well, I never thought of myself as exceptionally gifted because I always… sort of, had to work away to pass exams and do this, that and the other and I certainly wasn’t gifted in things like languages. I’d quite a job getting through school certificate French, I remember, and I was hopeless at Latin because I just couldn’t… I couldn’t bear… bring my mind to focus on it, is what it really came to, I think, because I was really so bad there must have been some instinctive hostility towards it. So, I thought I was, sort of, averagely bright but I’d never thought I was anything very special and I don’t specially think now. I think it’s partly a matter of luck, you know, in some of these things. You hit on an interesting discovery and you get encouraged and you go in a certain way and… and you might well have not had that piece of luck and it might have turned out differently.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: exam, language, school, French, Latin, discovery, luck

Duration: 49 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008