Oral history of British science

Wilkins, Maurice (6 of 12). National Life Stories: Leaders of National Life

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  • Subjects

    Biophysics; Molecular Biology

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  • Interviewees

    Wilkins, Maurice, 1916-2004 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Rose, Steven (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: In Part II Maurice Wilkins [MW] did crystal physics. Had breakdown in 2nd year. Got only 2-2 degree. Cockcroft advised him to look through journals in library, and articles MW finds interesting would point him to the type of research MW should aim to do. MW found solid state physics interesting - intrigued by movement of electrons. Went to do PhD with Randall in Birmingham - employed as research assistant. MW has some problems with Randall, wants to get on with his PhD. Speaks of his disappointment when Bragg was appointed to the Cavendish chair replacing Rutherford. Going back to undergraduate days MW mentions joining the Cambridge scientists' anti-war group and the people he met there. MW explains the aims of the group. MW was involved in the gas-proof room tests. They tested the leaking out of CO2 from a sealed room at Trinity College. Found the difference between leaking out and leaking in! Later MW was put in charge of incendiary bomb experiment. Found out that contrary to reports from Spain, an incendiary bomb would not burn through floorboards. The group also studied high explosives and shelters, advocating deep shelters. Talks about damage from aerial bombardments, which in the end was bigger than expected. Now talks about politics, starting with Cambridge: debunking the spy; ideas. Claims that in the late Thirties left-wing movement was open and public campaigning. MW joined the Communist Party for a while - until the beginning of the war.

  • Description

    Joint Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 with Francis Harry Compton Crick and James Dewey Watson for their work and discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material; DNA structure, described as double helix.

  • Related transcripts

    Professor Maurice Wilkins interviewed by Steven Rose: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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