Oral history of British science

Wilkins, Maurice (1 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 1: Discussion for reasons and purpose of interviewer; difficulty of being objective. Stress on importance of general attitudes. General remarks on the importance - as well as dangers - of genetic inheritance and cultural background. Maurice Wilkins [MW] was born in New Zealand but parents from Dublin. Great-grandfather Wilkins was Army surgeon in Afghan wars; MW found out about his background and reasons for taking this job in those times; how his great-grandfather brought back Afghan sheep for the Zoo. Great-grandfather then married young girl, had 5 children; one son, his grandfather, became headmaster of Dublin High School. Family were Protestants, free thinkers, liberals, in forum of women's education. Grandfather married into Hutton family and explains connection to F.D. Maurice, who set up Queen's College in Dublin. Grandmother Mary Hutton spent one year at Newnham College, Cambridge; was Unitarian. Father took medical degree at Trinity College, Dublin and was influenced by cultural, philosophical, mostly Protestant scene - with no feeling for the revolutionary political Catholics, but he had contact with the simple Catholic peasants. Father had great interest in health of body and mind, and exercise. Talks of pranks father was involved in. Parents left for New Zealand in 1913, immediately after getting married. Mother's family of German background; maternal grandfather belonged to Plymouth Brethren and was in Dublin Police Force.

  • 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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