Oral history of British science

Wilkins, Maurice (3 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 3: Maurice Wilkins [MW] talks about his father's professional life as G.P. - his interest in preventive medicine, school medical services. MW’s father was also vegetarian, advocated brown bread and got into trouble with the millers who worked on white flour. Also made an enemy of the man in charge of hospitals (Valentine) who was not interested in preventive medicine. MW’s father created a lot of antagonism, and after three years either resigned or was sacked and went back to England. MW then 6½ years; MW remembers interesting journey home by sea, sickness on the boat and landing in Southampton. Difficulties in this new world - visiting relations, living in London, experience of new school. Elder sister was very ill and a new baby sister was born. Bad memories of visiting very ill sister (septicaemia) in hospital. MW was unhappy and lonely, stopped school and got a dog, but the dog also got ill and was put down. Many bad experiences with children stealing his pistol and nasty boy Scout. It shattered his world as MW had seen it, was also ill a lot and found the life very different to New Zealand, and began to feel alienated from his parents, who knew this, to him, new world. MW’s father got a job in Birmingham and life became a bit better except for nuisance of baby sister and continuing illness of older sister. Remembers father's first car. When elder sister comes home from hospital - disabled - they never managed to re-establish the old close relationship between them; did not share old interests any more, except for music. Later MW made friends and developed interest in science, cars and planes, making models himself; had 'Flight' magazine, was fascinated by the power of fighter planes as well as peaceful gilders. Discusses materials MW used in making his model planes and also his belief that air war (bombing) was better than land war, and the influence on him of H.G.Wells

  • 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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