After voting in the £50 Note Zone, it’s time to tell the Bank of England what you think:
Put me on the note because my work on DNA helped revolutionise the science of biology and genetics, but I missed out on a Nobel Prize because I died at the age of only 37.
25 July 1920 - 16 April 1958
Providing the data that enabled Crick and Watson to determine the structure of DNA
One sentence about me: Without my work, Crick and Watson would not have been able to work out the structure of DNA - and if my colleague Maurice Wilkins hadn’t shown them my data, I might have got there first.
I am a scientist through and through. My work aims to understand the molecules that make up life on this world. When I am not working in the laboratory, I am probably on vacation in France, sampling the fine food or hiking in the Alps.
I did both my first degree and my PhD at the University of Cambridge, before moving on to research work in Paris, King’s College London and finally Birkbeck College. My main field of research is the use of X-ray crystallography to study the structure of chemicals important to life, such as proteins and DNA, and even whole viruses. X-ray crystallography is a technique that uses the scattering of X-rays off crystal surfaces to determine the spacing between atoms, and so eventually deduce the structure of the molecule. My most famous work was on DNA: Photograph 51, which I took with my PhD student Raymond Gosling, clearly showed (to anyone with an understanding of crystallography) that this molecule had a double-helix structure.
Vote for me:
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Intelligent, Thorough, Francophile
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Probably Photograph 51, an X-ray crystallography image which clearly showed the helical structure of DNA. This was the image that inspired Crick and Watson to work out the structure of the double helix.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I was interested in science from a very early age. I think my inspiration came from my father, who - although a banker by profession - taught electricity and magnetism at the London Working Men’s College.
Were you ever in trouble for anything?
In my fellowship at King’s College, where I did my work on DNA, I did not get on at all well with either my boss John Randall or my colleague Maurice Wilkins. This eventually led to my finding it impossible to carry on working there and I had to leave for Birkbeck College.
Tell us something people might not know about me?
I started my research career working on the structure of coal!
You may also remember me from...
Various TV documentaries about the discovery of DNA.
I'm being championed by:
Susan Cartwright, Nikolai Adamski, David Mills and Sophie Louth