Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Francis Crick, Seeker of Truth

What a blogger Francis Crick would have made!

Crick helped discover DNA and the genetic code.

From a review in the New York Times by Nicholas Wade of new biography by Matt Ridley called “Francis Crick, Discoverer of the Genetic Code."

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"Crick forged his own path through life. Mr. Ridley dwells only briefly on Crick’s heterodox views and experimental way of life. He seldom read newspapers, because working in intelligence had convinced him that most stories never reached the press. He experimented with marijuana and LSD, Mr. Ridley reports.

Crick and his wife Odile held lively parties and enjoyed the company of their many bohemian friends, like John Gayer-Anderson, who made pornographic pottery.

“Though they did not have an explicitly ‘open marriage,’ Francis was an incorrigible flirt,” Mr. Ridley writes, “and Odile at least affected not to mind.”

Crick refused to meet the queen when she visited Cambridge’s new Laboratory of Molecular Biology because he disapproved of royalty, and he declined a knighthood. He deeply disliked religion, saying once that Christianity was all right between consenting adults but should not be taught to children.

He refused to attend weddings or funerals, though he was always up for the party afterward. He resigned from Churchill College when it decided to build a chapel like any other Cambridge college.

Desire to undercut religious obscurantism was a cogent motive in Crick’s scientific career, shaping his choice first of the gene and later of consciousness as problems that, if cracked, would destroy the last refuges of vitalism.

“Throughout, he stayed true to himself: ebullient, loquacious, charming, skeptical, tenacious,” Mr. Ridley writes in an eloquent coda. “He would have liked to find the seat of consciousness and to see the retreat of religion. He had to settle for explaining life.”

###

Crick “saw himself as a dedicated seeker of great truths who had worked very hard, with long hours of reading, calculation, and intuition, to get to the point where he could make a great discovery."

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