Francis Crick: Who was the man who discovered DNA?

Professor Robert Olby, Research Professor, University of Pittsburgh USA

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Introduction by Professor Paul Griffiths, Professorial Research Fellow, University of Sydney.

This richly illustrated lecture seeks to unearth the formative influences that shaped Francis Crick's career, his personality, and his extraordinary qualities as a scientist. Starting with his provincial upbringing, this analysis moves to London, the outbreak of World War II and the formative years in which he worked for the Royal Navy. What sources drew him to biology thereafter? How did he win respect in crystallography before discovering the structure of DNA ? What was the impact on him of his relationship and subsequent marriage to Odile Speed? Why was his relationship with Cambridge University ambivalent? How strong was his commitment to scientific humanism and how did it play out in his views on contemporary society and religious institutions? How did it shape his latter career as a Nobel laureate?

Professor Robert Olby is currently Research Professor at the University of Pittsburgh USA. Formerly at the University of Leeds, UK, Robert Olby is a prominent historian of nineteenth and twentieth century biology, his special fields being genetics and molecular biology. Olby is a member of the History of Science Society and the International Academy of the History of Science.

His best known works are The Origins of Mendelism (1966, 1985) and The Path to the Double Helix (1974, 1994), but he has published widely in historical journals, and more recently in Nature, Nature Reviews Genetics, and Endeavour. With his colleagues in Leeds he edited The Companion to the History of Modern Science (1990).

He most recently published the first full-length biography of the late Dr. Francis Crick- Francis Crick: Hunter of life’s secrets, with support from the National Science Foundation and the award of an Archives Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge. In this publication Olby chronicles Crick's life from his early studies in biophysics, to the discovery of the structure of DNA, and on to his later work in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. This account is woven together with insights into his personal life gained through access to Crick's papers, family, and friends.

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Robert Olby's visit to Australia is supported by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.