Nature 444, 1002 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/4441002c; Published online 21 December 2006

Biography of Crick aims to inspire a wider audience

Michael Ashburner1, Mark Bretscher2 & Peter A. Lawrence3

  1. Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  3. Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


We do hope that your readers are not put off reading Matt Ridley's biography Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (HarperCollins, 2006) by Horace Judson's review (Nature 443, 917–918; 2006). Ridley's book, which, as one of a series of biographies, had to conform in length to a standard, makes no pretence to be the academic biography that Judson was apparently expecting. He should know (as Ridley does, and makes clear in his acknowledgements) that the 'definitive' biography of Crick is being written by Bob Olby. Ridley set out to write about 'the greatest biologist of the twentieth century' for a wide audience.

Judson comments, for example, that insufficient detail was given about Crick and Watson's interactions with the Wilkins and Franklin group. But these interactions have been considered by historians many times, including by Judson himself in his book The Eighth Day of Creation (Simon & Schuster, 1979), and could only have been condensed in this brief account.

Ridley conveys, in a way that is both clear and affectionate, Crick's unique mix of fun and genius, as well as the highlights of his scientific achievements. Judson calls Ridley a 'journalist'. That's an arguable description, but in a world where the communication of science to a general audience is so essential, we wish there were more 'journalists' like him. His biography of Crick will make many eager to read more about this inspiring man.

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