Oral history of British science

Wilkins, Maurice (2 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 2: Maurice Wilkins [MW] speaks about career of army surgeons - often without medical qualifications. Only after 15-20 years in the army could one become a proper regimental surgeon. MW explains economic motives for joining the army and for leaving Ireland. Mother a Whittaker, of very different cultural background and therefore not very good marriage. Father went to New Zealand as a G.P., but had difficulty collecting fees from patients and later moved north of Wellington to Pongaroa in a remote area and difficult conditions. MW was born soon after arrival in New Zealand. [discussion about the life story and background of interviewer]. Talks about conditions in remote New Zealand but after 3 years parents move for cultural and educational reasons to a town - Pahiatua- to a hopsital job. By that time two children, a happy time and MW cheerful and extrovert - but becomes fascinated by display of guns. They moved to Wellington when MW was 3½-6½; had very happy time there with his sister. In letters home, father describes him as "perverse" - probably due to his interest in "exploring alternatives" (the scientific mind!) Great interest in books, went to school only at 7 years. Grandmother sent books from Ireland. MW learns about himself by reading his father's letters home - MW is described as interested in abstract things, as well as mechanical, animals and also violence and war, while his sister was more romantic but also interested in mathematics. But both interested in stars and the planets, and undertook many joint activities. Reminisces on the many happy activities with his sister and father during the Wellington time.

  • 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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