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Register of the Francis Crick Personal Papers MSS 660
MSS 660  
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  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
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  • Title: Francis Crick Personal Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 660
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 11.1 Linear feet 25 archives boxes, 3 card file boxes and 5 oversize folders
    Date (inclusive): 1938 - 2007
    Abstract: Personal papers of Francis Harry Compton Crick, neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner who co-discovered the helical structure of DNA with James D. Watson. The papers document Crick's family, social and personal life from 1938 until his death in 2004 and include letters from friends and professional colleagues, family members, social acquaintances, and organizations. Important correspondents include George Gamow, Georg Kreisel, Michael McClure, Leslie Orgel, Linus Pauling, Max Perutz, James D. Watson, and Maurice H.F. Wilkins. The papers also contain photographs of Crick, his family and friends; several small pocket notebooks and numerous appointment books (1946-2004); passports, writings of Crick and others; film and television projects, miscellaneous certificates and awards; and collected memorabilia. The accession processed in 2007 contains additional general and condolence correspondence, as well as materials related to Odile Crick.
    creator: Crick, Francis, 1916-2004

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accession processed in 2006
    The personal papers of Francis Crick document the personal life of a noted biochemist and Nobel Prize winner and provide a glimpse of his social life and relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Largely a collection of correspondence dating from 1947 to 2005, the papers also contain personal documents, especially certificates and awards; small notebooks and appointment books (1946-2004); photographs of Francis and Odile, his wife, as well as friends and scientific colleagues; personal business files related to property and projects; film and television projects; writings of Crick and of others; and memorabilia collected over time; announcements and invitations, poems, portraits, newspaper clippings, receipts, wine lists, menus from events, and programs from scientific and theatrical events.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in three subseries: A) General, B) Unidentified, and C) Letters of Condolence.
    A) The General subseries, arranged alphabetically, contains letters and greeting cards that date from 1947 to 2005. Family correspondence includes letters from his children, Michael, Gabrielle and Jacqueline; his wife Odile; as well as other relatives. The series includes a photocopy of Crick's March 19, 1953 letter to his son that explained the DNA discovery prior to Crick and Watson's publication in NATURE magazine in April of 1953. Other correspondence documents Crick's involvement with various humanist associations and fellow humanists such as C.P. Snow and a letter from Winston Churchill puzzling over Crick's stance regarding the building of a chapel at Churchill College, Cambridge. Included is correspondence with Crick's friend, mathematician Georg Kreisel, poet Michael McClure, historian Robert Olby, and scientists Max Perutz and Peter Pauling. Also included are letters from Edward C. Collingwood, a Royal Society fellow and mathematician, who was Crick's naval superior during the war years, and later a mentor; and artist Howard J. Morgan who drew Crick's portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in London.
    B) The Unidentified subseries contains letters that lack a surname and are filed by first name.
    C) The Letters of Condolence subseries is arranged alphabetically and contains letters and condolence cards received after Crick's death in 2004. Condolences were received from scientists around the globe, from other Nobel Prize recipients, as well as friends, neighbors, family, and dignitaries.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series contains early student correspondence with Cambridge University regarding Crick's acceptance into a Ph.D program, passports (1945 - 2008), award certificates and membership cards, Oxford pince nez style eyeglasses and a wallet, announcements of Crick lectures and symposia participation, visa applications, and newspaper clippings about Crick.
    The APPOINTMENT BOOKS series contains forty-nine small pocket-sized appointment books with names, addresses, telephone numbers, appointment notations, miscellaneous laid-in notes, receipts and mailing paraphernalia.
    The NOTEBOOK series contains a small collection of pocket-sized notebooks with jottings, addresses and notes.
    Included in the PHOTOGRAPHS series are images of Francis and Odile, studio portrait photographs of Francis' mother, father and uncle, and group photographs with family and friends. Also included is a photograph of the RNA Tie Club, an informal group founded in 1954 by George Gamow. The club included Watson and Crick among its earliest members who engaged in informal conversation about the mystery of RNA. The series also includes a print of one of the now famous A.C. Barrington Brown photographs of Watson and Crick in 1953 with their double helix model.
    The SUBJECT FILES series contains files that document property, projects and vacations. The files document Crick's decision to come to the Salk Institute; residence property transactions in both the United Kingdom and the United States; family vacations and speaking tours; Crick's participation as director, scientific advisory board member and stock option owner of SIBIA Neurosciences, Inc., a corporation established in 1981 by the Salk Institute. Also included are collected memorabilia such as invitations to attend events and Crick theme parties, menus and wine lists, newspaper clippings and magazine articles of interest to Crick, receipts, as well as advertisements in which Crick was a participant, poems, mathematical examinations, and theatrical and other event programs.
    Included in the FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS series are files regarding Crick's 1970s involvement in the filming of two documentaries (one for educational use with first year students, one for a lay audience) about DNA entitled, DNA Story. The lay audience version was later shown in the United States, on a March 7, 1976 NOVA public television broadcast entitled, The Race For The Double Helix with author Isaac Asimov as narrator. There were discussions of another unrealized film project entitled, The Genetic Code. Additional files document Crick's participation in the making of and reactions to the 1984 BBC-produced drama Life Story with Jeff Goldblum as Watson and Tim Pigott-Smith as Crick which was later marketed in the United States as The Race For The Double Helix. Another project includes a Christopher Wood screenplay and correspondence featuring legal and financial discussions with Laurence P. Bachmann regarding an unrealized film project entitled, Double Helix.
    Included in the WRITINGS series are drafts and outlines in preparation of lectures and papers dealing with various scientific subjects including molecular biology, consciousness, neurobiology, the visual cortex, science and religion, and dream theories. Also included are Crick tributes to his friend, Sydney Brenner, notes on Jacob Bronowski, and a proposal prepared at the end of World War II regarding employing German scientists.
    The WRITING OF OTHERS series contains articles and advertisements featuring or quoting Crick including articles commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the double helix discovery in 1993, articles about Crick's family, Linus Pauling's 85th birthday celebration, Sydney Brenner's 2002 Nobel Prize, and an article about James D. Watson's tenure as head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institute of Health. The series also includes scientific reprints, a book review of Crick's What Mad Pursuit, and numerous poems mentioning or inscribed to Crick.
    The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have been photocopied.
    Accession processed in 2007
    The accession processed in 2007 adds correspondence to the collection, the bulk from family members and friends, as well as a small amount of additional condolence correspondence received by Odile Crick after Crick's death on July 28, 2004. Also included are two writings by Crick, a metal model in a double helix shape, portraits and photographs, and miscellaneous materials related to Odile Crick, who died on July 5, 2007.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series contains letters from four generations of the Crick family (including Crick's mother, aunts, cousins, and grandchildren) as well as from numerous long-time personal friends including: Sumi Adachi, Eprime Eshag, Jan Ellison, Pauline Finbow, John Gayer-Anderson, Patsy Lambe, Peter Lawrence and Brigitta Haraldson, Robin Marris, Francoise and Dominic Michaelis, Walter and Judy Rosenblith, Gunter and Mirji Sachs, Kirsti Simonsuuri, Vanji Thorgerson, and Edith Weisz. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name.
    The CONDOLENCE CORRESPONDENCE series contains one folder with approximately 25 sympathy cards and letters received by Odile Crick in late-2004 and 2005. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name.
    The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series contains biographical materials such as Crick's alien registration card (1976); an invitation to a reception on Queen Elizabeth's yacht (1983); pen and ink portraits of Crick by his wife, Odile; photographs of Crick and others; writings by Crick; and a small metal model shaped into the double helix shape.
    The ODILE CRICK MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series contains appointment calendars kept by Mrs. Crick (1953, 1990-1996, 1999-2007); a notebook of expenses associated with her art; the printed card she used to respond to the voluminous amount of condolence correspondence she received after Cricks' death, a printed memorial card (featuring one of her watercolors) and photocopied newspaper obituaries printed after her own death on July 5, 2007.


    Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on June 8, 1916 in Weston Favell, a district of Northampton, in central England. Crick was the eldest of the two sons of Harry Crick (1878-1948) and Anne Elizabeth Crick (nee Wilkins) (1879-1955). His father and uncle ran the leather boot and shoe factory founded by their father, Walter D. Crick, an amateur naturalist. The elder Crick wrote a survey of local foraminifera (single-celled protists with shells), corresponded with Charles Darwin, and had two gastropods (snails or slugs) named after him.
    Crick attended Northampton Grammar School and the non-conformist Protestant Congregational Church. At age 14, he won a scholarship to the Mill Hill School, a private boarding school in North London that his father and three uncles had also attended.
    At age 18, Crick attended University College in London (UCL). In 1937, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, second honors, in Physics with a minor in mathematics. With family financial aid, Crick began graduate study at UCL until the outbreak of World War II interrupted his studies. Crick's war work involved research on magnetic and acoustic mines for the British Admiralty. Briefly, he worked for Naval Intelligence at Whitehall in London. In 1940, he married Ruth Doreen Dodd, a UCL English Literature undergrad, and their son, Michael, was born during an air raid on November 25, 1940.
    After the war, Crick decided to move from physics to study "the division between the living and the non-living,'' choosing the field of study today termed molecular biology. In 1947, he accepted work at the Strangeways Laboratory that he later described as his "apprenticeship in biology." In 1949, Crick joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) as a Cavendish Laboratory scientist and, at age 33, once again became a graduate student. Four years later, he obtained his PhD from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
    In 1949, Crick married Odile Speed (born 8-11-1920 in King's Lynn, Norfolk, daughter of a British jeweler, Alfred Valentine Speed, and a French mother, Marie-Therese Josephine Speed (nee Jaeger)). Odile was an art student at St. Martin's School of Art in London, in Paris, and was studying in Vienna when German troops entered that city. She served as a WREN (Women's Royal Naval Service) officer whose activities included driving trucks, code-breaking, and translating German documents. She met Francis in 1945 at the Admiralty. The Cricks lived in a small flat called the Green Door above a tobacconist shop in Cambridge. Their first daughter, Gabrielle, was born in 1951, followed by Jacqueline in 1954.
    In 1952, Crick began his collaboration with James Watson that resulted in establishing the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Later, both would share the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Maurice Wilkins for these discoveries.
    The Cricks traveled frequently around the globe to symposiums and to give lectures. He was a visiting lecturer at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, UC Berkeley's virus laboratory, the University of Rochester, and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Crick was also, from almost its inception, a visiting fellow at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences in La Jolla, CA each February. In 1960, funded partly by the Lasker Foundation Prize, the Crick's visited Mont Blanc and enjoyed a month-long stay in a Tangier villa. Often Crick would then travel on alone to a scientific meeting. Later, the Cricks would travel on speaking tours to Japan, Thailand, India, and vacation in Geneva, Zurich, Paris and French Polynesia. The family took up boating when Crick bought first a half-share of a 47-foot Sparkman & Stephens yacht, then later a Bertram power boat named the "Eye of Heaven." Vacations then regularly included the Greek Islands.
    The year 1962 brought honors and promotions. Crick received the Nobel Prize and the family traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to attend the festivities including dinner with King Gustaf VI. At the MRC, Crick became a joint head of the newly founded MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
    In the 1960s, Crick, along with Paul McCartney, Graham Greene and others collaborated to urge cannabis legal reform. Unafraid of controversy, Crick, an outspoken atheist and associated with various humanist organizations, sponsored an essay contest on what might be done with the Cambridge College chapels.
    Nobel fame brought television, movie and book offers. In 1968, Watson published his best seller, the Double Helix. In the 1970s, Crick and Watson agreed to participate in the making of the documentary, DNA Story. In 1984, the BBC released Life Story, a 106-minute dramatic television program which was well-received in Britain and in America. In 1971, Crick and Leslie Orgel created the hypothesis of "directed Panspermia" (the idea that genetic materials may have been purposely spread by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization). This led to one of Crick's four books: Life Itself: Its Origin And Nature (1981). Crick wrote 130 published papers as well as three other books: Of Molecules And Men (1966), What Mad Pursuit (1988), and The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search For The Soul (1994).
    1976 marked the beginning of the family's transition to California. First, Crick visited during an eight-month sabbatical and then accepted Salk's offer to become the Kieckhefer Professor at the Institute. The Cricks moved to coastal California and later bought land eighty-five miles east in the desert town of Borrego Springs where he built a house and enjoyed desert gardening.
    In 1994-1995, Crick served as President of the Salk Institute but resigned after having heart surgery in 1995. In 2001, Crick was diagnosed with colon cancer. He continued to work and was able to attend many of the functions associated with the 50th Anniversary of the double helix discovery. He died at age 88 on July 28, 2004. Crick was survived by his wife of 55 years, Odile, who died on July 5, 2007.
    Among the many honors beyond the Nobel Prize, Crick was awarded the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer, the Gairdner Foundation's Award of Merit, the Warren Triennial Prize Lecture, Foreign Honorary Membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellowships from UCL, Churchill College, Gonville and Caius College, and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society, French Academy of Sciences and Irish Academy memberships.
    Biographies include: M. Ridley, Francis Crick: Discoverer Of The Genetic Code (2006); P. Strathern, Crick, Watson, And DNA (1999); H. F. Judson, The Eighth Day Of Creation (expanded ed. 1996) and J. D. Watson, The Double Helix (1968).

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Francis Crick Personal Papers, MSS 0660. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.


    Collection is open for research.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Gamow, George, 1904-1968
    Kreisel, Georg
    McClure, Michael
    Orgel, Leslie E.
    Perutz, Max F.
    DNA -- Structure