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DNA's Third Man: Science Stories on BBC Radio 4

Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in 1962 with Francis Crick and James Watson for the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA.

Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in 1962 with Francis Crick and James Watson for the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA. Although less well-known than Crick and Watson, Wilkins initiated the work on DNA at King’s under John Randall’s direction, and after the model was proposed by Crick and Watson, it was his detailed work that confirmed the structure. Rosalind Franklin, who with Ray Gosling took the famous “Photo 51” X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA that inspired the model-building of Crick and Watson, died tragically young just five years after the 1953 discovery, and could not share in the Prize. 

This programme, presented by Kevin Fong, traces the life of Maurice Wilkins through his work on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, his subsequent decision to apply physics “from the science of death to the science of life”, and his X-ray crystallographic work on DNA. Brian Sutton, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and X-ray crystallographer in the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics, discusses Maurice Wilkins’ DNA work and his key contributions to the discovery. The programme includes Wilkins’ son George talking about his father, and recordings of Wilkins himself speaking about his work and his approach to science.

DNA's Third Man: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05zl1bj (First broadcast: 24th June 2015)