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The Secret of Life

3rd March 2021

This is an extract from my virtual medical tour All Around the University - Firsts and Inventions in the History of Medicine. Francis Crick makes a remarkable discovery...

Behind the British Library you can see
the Institute of Francis Crick which is
the largest biomedical research
laboratory in Europe. H.O.K.'s
the architect, or 'Hoke', a team based in
America. One thousand two hundred
anad fifty scientists work here in this 
extraordinary edifice. Their annual
budget is a hundred million pounds. 
And Francis Crick? The name's familiar. 
The British biophysicist was one 
of three who won the Nobel prize
for their discovery of D.N.A.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
in the nineteen fifties. Well the structure
of it actually. The body has
a hundred trillion cells. Each measures nought
point nought nought one, that is a thousandth, of
a millimetre. Each has twenty three
pairs of chromosomes and each of these
comprises one long double helix strand
of D.N.A. and what is more, this strand 
has even in the smallest chromosome 
some fifty million pairs of D.N.A. 
They used a most expensive microscope 
to see down to the tiniest constituent 
of any living thing. Watson Crick
and Wilkins were the three. Francis Crick
had studied Physics at the U.C.L.
although his course was interrupted by
the war in nineteen thirty nine - literally
because a bomb fell through the roof
of his laboratory. He got his own
back by developing a mine. His name
is on a plaque outside the Eagle pub
in Cambridge where in nineteen fifty three
he entered and addressed the lunchtime crowd:
'we have discovered the secret of life!'.