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What you gossip about is what you’re interested in


The effect of World War II on my career
Francis Crick Scientist
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Before the war I was working on a very dull problem which I didn’t really select myself, which had been selected by my professor. And I was building an apparatus, which is something I’m not particularly good at, but I did it. And I would have had to go back after the war and finish that but for the lucky fortune… lucky chance that the thing was blown up by a… a land mine during the war. So I didn’t have to go back and start all over again and… do it… and… and finish it, I should say. And I didn’t want to go back and start all over again. So, what the war gave me, essentially, was a chance to interact with some good scientists, to make me think about what I wanted to do, and gave me an opportunity at what you might call a second start, where I could really think what I was interested in, which would have been very difficult to do when you were younger because when you’re younger, usually, although you have a certain bias, you… you follow the, sort of, next step in the professional path. You… and… by the time you get to the age that I was of about 30, you’re… you’re getting just well established, and you don’t feel you want to make a change. On the other hand, it’s actually a very good time to make a change, in some ways, but, of course, you have lost those very key years of… of the twenties… in your twenties.

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: World War II

Duration: 1 minute, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008