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Giving advice to young scientists


Francis Crick Scientist
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I don’t think, in my case, there was one special person who made a large difference, but I think there were several people who made a considerable difference. For example, when I… in… the war when I went and worked in the Admiralty, I worked with group of people… headed by a man called Massey… Professor Harrie Massey. He seemed to be a very venerable figure to me because he was a full professor, as they say here, and… and he was a fellow of the Royal Society and so on. And I thought he was… it turned out he was 34, I think, at the time, I worked out afterwards, but I, sort of, thought of him as much older. And… it’s interesting that I don’t think I was aware specially of being influenced by him until I heard him give a talk, many years later, at a dinner of the Royal Society. And he gave a… instead of giving a sort of rather frivolous after dinner talk, he gave a quite interesting and serious one. To my astonishment he kept repeating a lot of my ideas. Well, I realised he hadn’t got the ideas from me, I got them from him, you see, but I hadn’t realised I got them from him until I heard him talk that way. So you can have a lot of influence of that sort. I knew I was influenced by him but I didn’t realise quite to what extent. And I was certainly influenced by [William Lawrence] Bragg, the… the younger Bragg, as a crystallographer, and also by Linus Pauling but that was a more indirect influence, not so much a… a personal one, but just following the way he… he did his work. So, there’re a number of influences of that sort but there wasn’t, I think, one person who made an enormous difference, there were several people who made a considerable difference.

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: The Admiralty, Royal Society, Harrie Massey, William Lawrence Bragg, Linus Pauling

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008