Maurice Wilkins CBE FRS

Died aged c. 88

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS (15 December 1916 – 5 October 2004) was a New Zealand-born British biophysicist and Nobel laureate whose research spanned multiple areas of physics and biophysics, contributing to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar. He is best known for his work at King's College London on the structure of DNA. Wilkins' work on DNA falls into two distinct phases. The first was in 1948–1950, when his initial studies produced the first clear X-ray images of DNA, which he presented at a conference in Naples in 1951 attended by James Watson. During the second phase, 1951–52, Wilkins produced clear "B form" "X" shaped images from squid sperm, images he sent to James Watson and Francis Crick, causing Watson to write "Wilkins... has obtained extremely excellent X-ray diffraction photographs" [of DNA]. In 1953, Wilkins' group coordinator Sir John Randall instructed Raymond Gosling to hand over to Wilkins a high-quality image of "B" form DNA (Photo 51), which Raymond Gosling had made in 1952, after which his supervisor Rosalind Franklin "put it aside" as she was leaving King's College London. Wilkins showed it to Watson. This image, along with the knowledge that Linus Pauling had proposed an incorrect structure of DNA, "mobilised" Watson and Crick to restart model building. With additional information from research reports of Wilkins and Franklin, obtained via Max Perutz, Watson and Crick correctly described the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. Wilkins continued to test, verify, and make significant corrections to the Watson–Crick DNA model and to study the structure of RNA. Wilkins, Crick, and Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

R. E. Franklin R. G. Gosling H. R. Wilson M. H. F. Wilkins A. R. Stokes King's College London DNA X-ray diffraction studies 1953

King's College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS, London, United Kingdom where they was