Maurice Wilkins

Discovery of DNA

Discovery of DNA - Maurice Wilkins

When the king of Sweden presented the 1962 Nobel Prize for Medicine, he didn't just give it to those limelight-hogging scientists J D Watson and Francis Crick. There was a third recipient, who seems to be often forgotten and was none other than New Zealander Maurice Wilkins (b. 1916, d. 2004).

Watson and Crick's contribution to the understanding of deoxyribonucleic acid is well heralded, and I would guess were you to ask any reasonable educated person who discovered DNA, theirs would be the names put forward. There is a good reason for this: for a long time the idea of the 'double helix' structure of DNA, and its role in life, was referred to as the 'Watson-Crick' conjecture, after the two scientists who basically guessed it first. But it wasn't until Maurice Wilkins had done an awful lot of work that the proposal was accepted as fact. In short, Wilkins 'proved' the conjecture.