Wilkins, Maurice Hugh Frederick

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Wilkins, Maurice Hugh Frederick,

1916–2004, British biophysicist, b. New Zealand, Ph.D. Univ. of Birmingham, 1940. He conducted research at the Univ. of St. Andrews, Scotland, and at Kings College, the Univ. of London (from 1946 until his death). In Berkeley, Calif., he worked (1944) for the Manhattan Project on the separation of uranium isotopes for use in atomic bombs. Shortly thereafter, he discontinued his research in nuclear physics to concentrate on problems in molecular biology, particularly the structure of DNA (see nucleic acidnucleic acid,
any of a group of organic substances found in the chromosomes of living cells and viruses that play a central role in the storage and replication of hereditary information and in the expression of this information through protein synthesis.
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). In the early 1950s Wilkins successfully extracted some fibers from a gel of DNA, and began photographing them using X-ray diffraction, but his best sample was passed to another researcher, Rosalind FranklinFranklin, Rosalind Elsie,
1920–58, English molecular biologist and chemist, grad. Newnham College, Cambridge (1941). She spent most of the war years (1942–45) working for the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, investigating the physical chemistry of
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. On the basis of X-ray photographs prepared by her laboratory that appeared to show a helical molecular structure and from other scientific information, F. H. C. CrickCrick, Francis Harry Compton,
1916–2004, English scientist, grad. University College, London, and Caius College, Cambridge. Crick was trained as a physicist, and from 1940 to 1947 he served as a scientist in the admiralty, where he designed circuitry for naval mines.
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 and J. D. WatsonWatson, James Dewey,
1928–, American biologist and educator, b. Chicago, Ill., grad. Univ. of Chicago, 1947, Ph.D. Univ. of Indiana, 1950. With F. H. C. Crick he began (1951) research on the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) at the Cavendish Laboratory at
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 built a model of the DNA molecule and explained its function. For their work the three men shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


See his autobiography (2003).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wilkins, Maurice Hugh Frederick


Born Dec. 15, 1916, in Pongaroa, New Zealand. British biophysicist. Fellow of the Royal Society (1959).

Wilkins graduated from Cambridge University and received a Ph.D. degree from Birmingham University in 1940. In 1945 he taught at St. Andrews University. In 1946 he joined the faculty of King’s College, University of London, where he became a professor and chairman of the department of molecular biology in 1962 and a professor of biophysics in 1970.

Wilkins confirmed the double-helix molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid by using X-ray diffraction analysis. He has conducted research on luminescence and the electron trap theory of phosphorescence and on the biophysics of the nervous system. In 1962, Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine jointly with F. Crick and J. Watson.


Watson, J. D. Dvoinaia spiral’. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from English.)
Olby, R. The Path to the Double Helix. Cambridge, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.