ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1962 – Maurice H. F. Wilkins

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Wilkins

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins (1916 – 2004) awarded one-third of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with James Watson and Francis Crick. The three scientists received the award for their elucidation of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Wilkins’s early research was on developing reflecting microscopes for the study of nucleic acids in cells. He also studied the orientation of purines and pyrimidines in the tobacco mosaic virus and in nucleic acids by measuring how oriented specimens absorbed one of two polarized components of light more strongly than the other, a phenomenon called dichroism. This led to his studies on the arrangement of virus particles in crystals of the virus and his measurements of the dry mass in cells. Later, he pursued X-ray diffraction studies of DNA and sperm heads. His discovery of well-defined diffraction patterns produced by these crystals led to the elucidation of the molecular structure of DNA by him, Watson, and Crick.