Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Francis Crick Personal Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0660
14.6 Linear feet
(32 archives boxes, 4 card file boxes, 2 oversize folders, 4 map case folders, and digital files)
Date (inclusive): 1935-2007
Abstract: Personal papers of British scientist and Nobel Prize winner Francis Harry Compton Crick, 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 and organizations. The papers also contain photographs
of Crick and his circle; notebooks and numerous appointment books (1946-2004); writings of Crick and others; film and television
projects; miscellaneous certificates and awards; materials relating to his wife, Odile Crick; and collected memorabilia.
Scope and Content of Collection
Personal papers of Francis Crick, the British molecular biologist, biophysicist, neuroscientist, and Nobel Prize winner who
co-discovered the helical structure of DNA with James D. Watson. The papers 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; 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 such as announcements and invitations, poems,
portraits, newspaper clippings, receipts, wine lists, menus, and programs from scientific and theatrical events.
The accessions processed in 2007 and 2016 add correspondence to the collection, primarily from family members and friends,
in addition to a small amount of condolence correspondence received by Odile Crick after Dr. Crick's death on July 28, 2004.
Also included are sound and video recordings, and miscellaneous materials related to Odile Crick, who died on July 5, 2007.
Accession processed in 2006
Arranged in ten series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 3) APPOINTMENT BOOKS, 4) NOTEBOOKS, 5) PHOTOGRAPHS,
6) SUBJECT FILES, 7) FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS, 8) WRITINGS, 9) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, and 10) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION
Accession processed in 2007
Arranged in four series: 11) CORRESPONDENCE, 12) CONDOLENCE CORRESPONDENCE, 13) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, and 14) ODILE CRICK
Accessions processed in 2016
Arranged in eight series: 15) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 16) CORRESPONDENCE, 17) SUBJECT FILES, 18) WRITINGS, 19) WRITINGS OF
OTHERS, 20) PHOTOGRAPHS, 21) SOUND RECORDINGS, and 22) VIDEO RECORDINGS.
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 (née 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,
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
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 1987, 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
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.
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); J.D. Watson,
The Double Helix (1968); and Robert Olby,
Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets (2009).
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Francis Crick Personal Papers, MSS 660. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
In accordance with state and federal laws, the following restrictions apply: Box 13, Folder 12 until 2026; and Box 13, Folder
17 until 2054. Original media formats are restricted; researchers may request user copies in advance of their visit.
The collection contains digital video, described in the container list. Researchers may contact Special Collections & Archives
to inquire about access to digital content.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
DNA -- Structure
Orgel, Leslie E. -- Correspondence
McClure, Michael -- Correspondence
Perutz, Max F. -- Correspondence
Kreisel, Georg -- Correspondence
Gamow, George -- Correspondence
Crick, Francis -- Archives
Pauling, Linus -- Correspondence
Watson, James D. -- Correspondence
Wilkins, Maurice -- Correspondence