Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Francis Crick Personal Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 660
Mandeville Special Collections Library
Language of Material:
11.1 Linear feet
25 archives boxes, 3 card file boxes and 5 oversize folders
Date (inclusive): 1938 - 2007
Personal papers of Francis Harry Compton Crick, neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner who co-discovered the helical structure
of DNA with James D. Watson. The papers document Crick's family, social and personal life from 1938 until his death in 2004
and include letters from friends and professional colleagues, family members, social acquaintances, and organizations. Important
correspondents include George Gamow, Georg Kreisel, Michael McClure, Leslie Orgel, Linus Pauling, Max Perutz, James D. Watson,
and Maurice H.F. Wilkins. The papers also contain photographs of Crick, his family and friends; several small pocket notebooks
and numerous appointment books (1946-2004); passports, writings of Crick and others; film and television projects, miscellaneous
certificates and awards; and collected memorabilia. The accession processed in 2007 contains additional general and condolence
correspondence, as well as materials related to Odile Crick.
Crick, Francis, 1916-2004
Scope and Content of Collection
Accession processed in 2006
The personal papers of Francis Crick document the personal life of a noted biochemist and Nobel Prize winner and provide a
glimpse of his social life and relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Largely a collection of correspondence dating
from 1947 to 2005, the papers also contain personal documents, especially certificates and awards; small notebooks and appointment
books (1946-2004); photographs of Francis and Odile, his wife, as well as friends and scientific colleagues; personal business
files related to property and projects; film and television projects; writings of Crick and of others; and memorabilia collected
over time; announcements and invitations, poems, portraits, newspaper clippings, receipts, wine lists, menus from events,
and programs from scientific and theatrical events.
The papers are arranged in ten series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 3) APPOINTMENT BOOKS, 4) NOTEBOOKS, 5)
PHOTOGRAPHS, 6) SUBJECT FILES, 7) FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS, 8) WRITINGS, 9) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, and 10) ORIGINALS OF
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in three subseries: A) General, B) Unidentified, and C) Letters of Condolence.
A) The General subseries, arranged alphabetically, contains letters and greeting cards that date from 1947 to 2005. Family
correspondence includes letters from his children, Michael, Gabrielle and Jacqueline; his wife Odile; as well as other relatives.
The series includes a photocopy of Crick's March 19, 1953 letter to his son that explained the DNA discovery prior to Crick
and Watson's publication in NATURE magazine in April of 1953. Other correspondence documents Crick's involvement with various
humanist associations and fellow humanists such as C.P. Snow and a letter from Winston Churchill puzzling over Crick's stance
regarding the building of a chapel at Churchill College, Cambridge. Included is correspondence with Crick's friend, mathematician
Georg Kreisel, poet Michael McClure, historian Robert Olby, and scientists Max Perutz and Peter Pauling. Also included are
letters from Edward C. Collingwood, a Royal Society fellow and mathematician, who was Crick's naval superior during the war
years, and later a mentor; and artist Howard J. Morgan who drew Crick's portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in London.
B) The Unidentified subseries contains letters that lack a surname and are filed by first name.
C) The Letters of Condolence subseries is arranged alphabetically and contains letters and condolence cards received after
Crick's death in 2004. Condolences were received from scientists around the globe, from other Nobel Prize recipients, as well
as friends, neighbors, family, and dignitaries.
SERIES 2: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series contains early student correspondence with Cambridge University regarding Crick's acceptance
into a Ph.D program, passports (1945 - 2008), award certificates and membership cards, Oxford pince nez style eyeglasses and
a wallet, announcements of Crick lectures and symposia participation, visa applications, and newspaper clippings about Crick.
SERIES 3: APPOINTMENT BOOKS
The APPOINTMENT BOOKS series contains forty-nine small pocket-sized appointment books with names, addresses, telephone numbers,
appointment notations, miscellaneous laid-in notes, receipts and mailing paraphernalia.
SERIES 4: NOTEBOOKS
The NOTEBOOK series contains a small collection of pocket-sized notebooks with jottings, addresses and notes.
SERIES 5: PHOTOGRAPHS
Included in the PHOTOGRAPHS series are images of Francis and Odile, studio portrait photographs of Francis' mother, father
and uncle, and group photographs with family and friends. Also included is a photograph of the RNA Tie Club, an informal group
founded in 1954 by George Gamow. The club included Watson and Crick among its earliest members who engaged in informal conversation
about the mystery of RNA. The series also includes a print of one of the now famous A.C. Barrington Brown photographs of Watson
and Crick in 1953 with their double helix model.
SERIES 6: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES series contains files that document property, projects and vacations. The files document Crick's decision
to come to the Salk Institute; residence property transactions in both the United Kingdom and the United States; family vacations
and speaking tours; Crick's participation as director, scientific advisory board member and stock option owner of SIBIA Neurosciences,
Inc., a corporation established in 1981 by the Salk Institute. Also included are collected memorabilia such as invitations
to attend events and Crick theme parties, menus and wine lists, newspaper clippings and magazine articles of interest to Crick,
receipts, as well as advertisements in which Crick was a participant, poems, mathematical examinations, and theatrical and
other event programs.
SERIES 7: FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS
Included in the FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS series are files regarding Crick's 1970s involvement in the filming of two
documentaries (one for educational use with first year students, one for a lay audience) about DNA entitled,
DNA Story. The lay audience version was later shown in the United States, on a March 7, 1976 NOVA public television broadcast entitled,
The Race For The Double Helix with author Isaac Asimov as narrator. There were discussions of another unrealized film project entitled,
The Genetic Code. Additional files document Crick's participation in the making of and reactions to the 1984 BBC-produced drama
Life Story with Jeff Goldblum as Watson and Tim Pigott-Smith as Crick which was later marketed in the United States as
The Race For The Double Helix. Another project includes a Christopher Wood screenplay and correspondence featuring legal and financial discussions with
Laurence P. Bachmann regarding an unrealized film project entitled,
SERIES 8: WRITINGS
Included in the WRITINGS series are drafts and outlines in preparation of lectures and papers dealing with various scientific
subjects including molecular biology, consciousness, neurobiology, the visual cortex, science and religion, and dream theories.
Also included are Crick tributes to his friend, Sydney Brenner, notes on Jacob Bronowski, and a proposal prepared at the end
of World War II regarding employing German scientists.
SERIES 9: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
The WRITING OF OTHERS series contains articles and advertisements featuring or quoting Crick including articles commemorating
the 40th Anniversary of the double helix discovery in 1993, articles about Crick's family, Linus Pauling's 85th birthday celebration,
Sydney Brenner's 2002 Nobel Prize, and an article about James D. Watson's tenure as head of the Human Genome Project at the
National Institute of Health. The series also includes scientific reprints, a book review of Crick's
What Mad Pursuit, and numerous poems mentioning or inscribed to Crick.
SERIES 10: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have
Accession processed in 2007
The accession processed in 2007 adds correspondence to the collection, the bulk from family members and friends, as well as
a small amount of additional condolence correspondence received by Odile Crick after Crick's death on July 28, 2004. Also
included are two writings by Crick, a metal model in a double helix shape, portraits and photographs, and miscellaneous materials
related to Odile Crick, who died on July 5, 2007.
The accession is arranged in four series: 11) CORRESPONDENCE, 12) CONDOLENCE CORRESPONDENCE, 13) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS,
and 14) ODILE CRICK MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS.
SERIES 11: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series contains letters from four generations of the Crick family (including Crick's mother, aunts, cousins,
and grandchildren) as well as from numerous long-time personal friends including: Sumi Adachi, Eprime Eshag, Jan Ellison,
Pauline Finbow, John Gayer-Anderson, Patsy Lambe, Peter Lawrence and Brigitta Haraldson, Robin Marris, Francoise and Dominic
Michaelis, Walter and Judy Rosenblith, Gunter and Mirji Sachs, Kirsti Simonsuuri, Vanji Thorgerson, and Edith Weisz. The correspondence
is arranged alphabetically by last name.
SERIES 12: CONDOLENCE CORRESPONDENCE
The CONDOLENCE CORRESPONDENCE series contains one folder with approximately 25 sympathy cards and letters received by Odile
Crick in late-2004 and 2005. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name.
SERIES 13: MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS
The MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series contains biographical materials such as Crick's alien registration card (1976); an invitation
to a reception on Queen Elizabeth's yacht (1983); pen and ink portraits of Crick by his wife, Odile; photographs of Crick
and others; writings by Crick; and a small metal model shaped into the double helix shape.
SERIES 14: ODILE CRICK MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS
The ODILE CRICK MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS series contains appointment calendars kept by Mrs. Crick (1953, 1990-1996, 1999-2007);
a notebook of expenses associated with her art; the printed card she used to respond to the voluminous amount of condolence
correspondence she received after Cricks' death, a printed memorial card (featuring one of her watercolors) and photocopied
newspaper obituaries printed after her own death on July 5, 2007.
Francis Harry Compton Crick was born on June 8, 1916 in Weston Favell, a district of Northampton, in central England. Crick
was the eldest of the two sons of Harry Crick (1878-1948) and Anne Elizabeth Crick (nee Wilkins) (1879-1955). His father and
uncle ran the leather boot and shoe factory founded by their father, Walter D. Crick, an amateur naturalist. The elder Crick
wrote a survey of local foraminifera (single-celled protists with shells), corresponded with Charles Darwin, and had two gastropods
(snails or slugs) named after him.
Crick attended Northampton Grammar School and the non-conformist Protestant Congregational Church. At age 14, he won a scholarship
to the Mill Hill School, a private boarding school in North London that his father and three uncles had also attended.
At age 18, Crick attended University College in London (UCL). In 1937, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, second
honors, in Physics with a minor in mathematics. With family financial aid, Crick began graduate study at UCL until the outbreak
of World War II interrupted his studies. Crick's war work involved research on magnetic and acoustic mines for the British
Admiralty. Briefly, he worked for Naval Intelligence at Whitehall in London. In 1940, he married Ruth Doreen Dodd, a UCL English
Literature undergrad, and their son, Michael, was born during an air raid on November 25, 1940.
After the war, Crick decided to move from physics to study "the division between the living and the non-living,'' choosing
the field of study today termed molecular biology. In 1947, he accepted work at the Strangeways Laboratory that he later described
as his "apprenticeship in biology." In 1949, Crick joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) as a Cavendish Laboratory scientist
and, at age 33, once again became a graduate student. Four years later, he obtained his PhD from Gonville and Caius College,
In 1949, Crick married Odile Speed (born 8-11-1920 in King's Lynn, Norfolk, daughter of a British jeweler, Alfred Valentine
Speed, and a French mother, Marie-Therese Josephine Speed (nee Jaeger)). Odile was an art student at St. Martin's School of
Art in London, in Paris, and was studying in Vienna when German troops entered that city. She served as a WREN (Women's Royal
Naval Service) officer whose activities included driving trucks, code-breaking, and translating German documents. She met
Francis in 1945 at the Admiralty. The Cricks lived in a small flat called the Green Door above a tobacconist shop in Cambridge.
Their first daughter, Gabrielle, was born in 1951, followed by Jacqueline in 1954.
In 1952, Crick began his collaboration with James Watson that resulted in establishing the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA). Later, both would share the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Maurice Wilkins for these discoveries.
The Cricks traveled frequently around the globe to symposiums and to give lectures. He was a visiting lecturer at the Brooklyn
Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, UC Berkeley's virus laboratory, the University of Rochester, and the Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine. Crick was also, from almost its inception, a visiting fellow at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences
in La Jolla, CA each February. In 1960, funded partly by the Lasker Foundation Prize, the Crick's visited Mont Blanc and enjoyed
a month-long stay in a Tangier villa. Often Crick would then travel on alone to a scientific meeting. Later, the Cricks would
travel on speaking tours to Japan, Thailand, India, and vacation in Geneva, Zurich, Paris and French Polynesia. The family
took up boating when Crick bought first a half-share of a 47-foot Sparkman & Stephens yacht, then later a Bertram power boat
named the "Eye of Heaven." Vacations then regularly included the Greek Islands.
The year 1962 brought honors and promotions. Crick received the Nobel Prize and the family traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to
attend the festivities including dinner with King Gustaf VI. At the MRC, Crick became a joint head of the newly founded MRC
Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
In the 1960s, Crick, along with Paul McCartney, Graham Greene and others collaborated to urge cannabis legal reform. Unafraid
of controversy, Crick, an outspoken atheist and associated with various humanist organizations, sponsored an essay contest
on what might be done with the Cambridge College chapels.
Nobel fame brought television, movie and book offers. In 1968, Watson published his best seller, the
Double Helix. In the 1970s, Crick and Watson agreed to participate in the making of the documentary,
DNA Story. In 1984, the BBC released
Life Story, a 106-minute dramatic television program which was well-received in Britain and in America. In 1971, Crick and Leslie Orgel
created the hypothesis of "directed Panspermia" (the idea that genetic materials may have been purposely spread by an advanced
extraterrestrial civilization). This led to one of Crick's four books:
Life Itself: Its Origin And Nature (1981). Crick wrote 130 published papers as well as three other books:
Of Molecules And Men (1966),
What Mad Pursuit (1988), and
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search For The Soul (1994).
1976 marked the beginning of the family's transition to California. First, Crick visited during an eight-month sabbatical
and then accepted Salk's offer to become the Kieckhefer Professor at the Institute. The Cricks moved to coastal California
and later bought land eighty-five miles east in the desert town of Borrego Springs where he built a house and enjoyed desert
In 1994-1995, Crick served as President of the Salk Institute but resigned after having heart surgery in 1995. In 2001, Crick
was diagnosed with colon cancer. He continued to work and was able to attend many of the functions associated with the 50th
Anniversary of the double helix discovery. He died at age 88 on July 28, 2004. Crick was survived by his wife of 55 years,
Odile, who died on July 5, 2007.
Among the many honors beyond the Nobel Prize, Crick was awarded the Prix Charles Leopold Meyer, the Gairdner Foundation's
Award of Merit, the Warren Triennial Prize Lecture, Foreign Honorary Membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
fellowships from UCL, Churchill College, Gonville and Caius College, and U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society,
French Academy of Sciences and Irish Academy memberships.
Biographies include: M. Ridley,
Francis Crick: Discoverer Of The Genetic Code (2006); P. Strathern,
Crick, Watson, And DNA (1999); H. F. Judson,
The Eighth Day Of Creation (expanded ed. 1996) and J. D. Watson,
The Double Helix (1968).
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Francis Crick Personal Papers, MSS 0660. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Collection is open for research.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Gamow, George, 1904-1968
Orgel, Leslie E.
Perutz, Max F.
DNA -- Structure