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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Francis Crick Quotes

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Francis Crick
(8 Jun 1916 - 28 Jul 2004)

English biochemist and biophysicist.


Science Quotes by Francis Crick (26 quotes)

A busy life is a wasted life.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Life (460)

Again the message to experimentalists is: Be sensible but don't be impressed too much by negative arguments. If at all possible, try it and see what turns up. Theorists almost always dislike this sort of approach.
— Francis Crick
What mad pursuit: a personal view of scientific discovery (1988), 113.
Science quotes on:  |  Approach (16)  |  Argument (26)  |  Dislike (9)  |  Experimentalist (7)  |  Impress (5)  |  Message (11)  |  Negative (10)  |  See (43)  |  Sensible (11)  |  Theorist (7)  |  Try (34)

Almost all aspects of life are engineered at the molecular level, and without understanding molecules we can only have a very sketchy understanding of life itself.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 61.
Science quotes on:  |  Life (460)  |  Molecular Biology (19)

Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 138.
Science quotes on:  |  Biologist (16)  |  Design (37)  |  Evolution (342)

Chance is the only source of true novelty.
— Francis Crick
Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (1982), 58.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (77)  |  Life (460)

Exact knowledge is the enemy of vitalism.
— Francis Crick
In Of Molecules and Men (1966, 2004), prefatory statement.
Science quotes on:  |  Enemy (26)  |  Exactness (13)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Vitalism (4)

Finally one should add that in spite of the great complexity of protein synthesis and in spite of the considerable technical difficulties in synthesizing polynucleotides with defined sequences it is not unreasonable to hope that all these points will be clarified in the near future, and that the genetic code will be completely established on a sound experimental basis within a few years.
— Francis Crick
'On the Genetic Code', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1962. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962 (1964), 808.
Science quotes on:  |  DNA (50)  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Protein (24)

Haemoglobin is a very large molecule by ordinary standards, containing about ten thousand atoms, but the chances are that your haemoglobin and mine are identical, and significantly different from that of a pig or horse. You may be impressed by how much human beings differ from one another, but if you were to look into the fine details of the molecules of which they are constructed, you would be astonished by their similarity.
— Francis Crick
In Of Molecules and Men (1966, 2004), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Astonishment (14)  |  Construction (36)  |  Detail (33)  |  Difference (135)  |  Fine (10)  |  Haemoglobin (3)  |  Horse (17)  |  Human Being (16)  |  Identical (9)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Ordinary (19)  |  Pig (4)  |  Significance (30)  |  Similarity (14)  |  Standard (15)

I also suspect that many workers in this field [molecular biology] and related fields have been strongly motivated by the desire, rarely actually expressed, to refute vitalism.
— Francis Crick
British Medical Bulletin (1965). In Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), 653.
Science quotes on:  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Vitalism (4)

I think she [Rosalind Franklin] was a good experimentalist but certainly not of the first rank. She was simply not in the same class as Eigen or Bragg or Pauling, nor was she as good as Dorothy Hodgkin. She did not even select DNA to study. It was given to her. Her theoretical crystallography was very average.
— Francis Crick
Letter to Charlotte Friend (18 Sep 1979). In Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine.
Science quotes on:  |  Average (16)  |  Sir Lawrence Bragg (8)  |  Class (27)  |  Crystallography (3)  |  DNA (50)  |  Manfred Eigen (2)  |  Experimentalist (7)  |  First (42)  |  Rosalind Franklin (11)  |  Good (81)  |  Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (6)  |  Linus Pauling (34)  |  Rank (13)  |  Select (3)  |  Study (157)  |  Theoretical (2)

If Watson and I had not discovered the [DNA] structure, instead of being revealed with a flourish it would have trickled out and that its impact would have been far less. For this sort of reason Stent had argued that a scientific discovery is more akin to a work of art than is generally admitted. Style, he argues, is as important as content. I am not completely convinced by this argument, at least in this case.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Content (17)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Impact (9)  |  Importance (106)  |  Gunther Siegmund Stent (2)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  Style (5)  |  James Watson (16)

If you want to understand function, study structure. [I was supposed to have said in my molecular biology days.]
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 150.
Science quotes on:  |  Function (41)  |  Structure (104)

It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.
[Concluding remark in the paper by Watson and Crick announcing discovery of the structure of DNA.]
— Francis Crick
In J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick, 'A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,' Letter in Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, 738. Quoted in Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit (1990), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Genetics (79)  |  Reproduction (34)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  James Watson (16)

It is notoriously difficult to define the word living.
— Francis Crick
Opening sentence in Of Molecules and Men (1966, 2004), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Definition (86)  |  Life (460)  |  Notorious (3)  |  Word (97)

It is one of the striking generalizations of biochemistry—which surprisingly is hardly ever mentioned in the biochemical text-books—that the twenty amino acids and the four bases, are, with minor reservations, the same throughout Nature. As far as I am aware the presently accepted set of twenty amino acids was first drawn up by Watson and myself in the summer of 1953 in response to a letter of Gamow's.
— Francis Crick
'On the Genetic Code', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1962. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962 (1964), 811.
Science quotes on:  |  Amino Acid (8)  |  George Gamow (7)  |  James Watson (16)

Jim and I hit it off immediately, partly because our interests were astonishingly similar and partly, I suspect, because a certain youthful arrogance, a ruthlessness, an impatience with sloppy thinking can naturally to both of us.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Arrogance (6)  |  Autobiography (48)  |  Impatience (4)  |  Ruthlessness (3)  |  Thinking (166)  |  James Watson (16)  |  Youth (32)

My own thinking (and that of many of my colleagues) is based on two general principles, which I shall call the Sequence Hypothesis and the Central Dogma. The direct evidence for both of them is negligible, but I have found them to be of great help in getting to grips with these very complex problems. I present them here in the hope that others can make similar use of them. Their speculative nature is emphasized by their names. It is an instructive exercise to attempt to build a useful theory without using them. One generally ends in the wilderness.
The Sequence Hypothesis
This has already been referred to a number of times. In its simplest form it assumes that the specificity of a piece of nucleic acid is expressed solely by the sequence of its bases, and that this sequence is a (simple) code for the amino acid sequence of a particular protein...
The Central Dogma
This states that once 'information' has passed into protein it cannot get out again. In more detail, the transfer of information from nucleic acid to nucleic acid, or from nucleic acid to protein may be possible, but transfer from protein to protein, or from protein to nucleic acid is impossible. Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or of amino acid residues in the protein. This is by no means universally held—Sir Macfarlane Burnet, for example, does not subscribe to it—but many workers now think along these lines. As far as I know it has not been explicitly stated before.
— Francis Crick
'On Protein Synthesis', Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology: The Biological Replication of Macromolecules, 1958, 12, 152-3.
Science quotes on:  |  DNA (50)  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Protein (24)

One can say, looking at the papers in this symposium, that the elucidation of the genetic code is indeed a great achievement. It is, in a sense, the key to molecular biology because it shows how the great polymer languages, the nucleic acid language and the protein language, are linked together.
— Francis Crick
'The Genetic Code: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow', Cold Spring Harbour Symposium on Quantitative Biology, 1966, 31, 9.
Science quotes on:  |  DNA (50)  |  Molecular Biology (19)

Protein synthesis is a central problem for the whole of biology, and that it is in all probability closely related to gene action.
— Francis Crick
'On Protein Synthesis', Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology: The Biological Replication of Macromolecules, 1958, 12, 160.
Science quotes on:  |  Gene (49)  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Protein (24)

The major credit I think Jim and I deserve ... is for selecting the right problem and sticking to it. It's true that by blundering about we stumbled on gold, but the fact remains that we were looking for gold. Both of us had decided, quite independently of each other, that the central problem in molecular biology was the chemical structure of the gene. ... We could not see what the answer was, but we considered it so important that we were determined to think about it long and hard, from any relevant point of view.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 74-75.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Autobiography (48)  |  Credit (10)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Importance (106)  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Problem (180)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  James Watson (16)

There is no form of prose more difficult to understand and more tedious to read than the average scientific paper.
— Francis Crick
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), xiii.
Science quotes on:  |  Publication (75)

To produce a really good biological theory one must try to see through the clutter produced by evolution to the basic mechanisms lying beneath them, realizing that they are likely to be overlaid by other, secondary mechanisms. What seems to physicists to be a hopelessly complicated process may have been what nature found simplest, because nature could only build on what was already there.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (83)  |  Complicated (14)  |  Evolution (342)  |  Mechanism (25)  |  Nature (534)  |  Physicist (74)  |  Process (97)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Theory (353)

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.
[Opening remark in the paper by Watson and Crick announcing discovery of the structure of DNA.]
— Francis Crick
In J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick, 'A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,' Letter in Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, 737. Quoted in Diane Dowdey, The Researching Reader: Source-based Writings Across the Disciplines (1990), 203.
Science quotes on:  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  James Watson (16)

When you start in science, you are brainwashed into believing how careful you must be, and how difficult it is to discover things. There's something that might be called the 'graduate student syndrome'; graduate students hardly believe they can make a discovery.
— Francis Crick
Quotation supplied by Professor Francis Crick.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (360)  |  Experiment (369)

While Occam's razor is a useful tool in the physical sciences, it can be a very dangerous implement in biology. It is thus very rash to use simplicity and elegance as a guide in biological research.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 138.
Science quotes on:  |  Occam's Razor (2)

[Science has shown you that] 'you,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. as Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased it: 'You're nothing but a pack of neurons.'
— Francis Crick
The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for Soul (1994), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Ambition (18)  |  Assembly (3)  |  Behaviour (23)  |  Brain (106)  |  Lewis Carroll (10)  |  Fact (325)  |  Free Will (4)  |  Identity (7)  |  Joy (25)  |  Memory (42)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Nerve (53)  |  Neuron (7)  |  Sense (104)  |  Sorrow (3)



Quotes by others about Francis Crick (5)

The central dogma, enunciated by Crick in 1958 and the keystone of molecular biology ever since, is likely to prove a considerable over-simplification. That is the heretical but inescapable conclusion stemming from experiments done in the past few months in two laboratories in the United States.
Anonymous
'News and Views', Nature, 1970, 226, 1198.
Science quotes on:  |  Molecular Biology (19)

At lunch Francis [Crick] winged into the Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the secret of life.
Purported remark made at The Eagle pub (28 Feb 1953), near the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, to celebrate the fact that they, Crick and Watson, had unravelled the structure of DNA. Stated by James Watson in The Double Helix (1998), 197. However Francis Crick, in What Mad Pursuit (1990), 77, writes that was 'according to Jim,' but 'of that I have no recollection.' Nevertheless, some quote collections report this incident with a direct quote as 'We have discovered the secret of life!'
Science quotes on:  |  Biochemistry (32)  |  Biology (83)  |  Discovery (360)  |  DNA (50)  |  Secret (44)

The fundamental biological variant is DNA. That is why Mendel's definition of the gene as the unvarying bearer of hereditary traits, its chemical identification by Avery (confirmed by Hershey), and the elucidation by Watson and Crick of the structural basis of its replicative invariance, are without any doubt the most important discoveries ever made in biology. To this must be added the theory of natural selection, whose certainty and full significance were established only by those later theories.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Oswald Avery (4)  |  Biology (83)  |  Confirmation (8)  |  Definition (86)  |  Discovery (360)  |  DNA (50)  |  Elucidation (4)  |  Fundamental (59)  |  Gene (49)  |  Heredity (43)  |  Identification (7)  |  Importance (106)  |  Invariance (2)  |  Gregor Mendel (18)  |  Natural Selection (57)  |  Replication (3)  |  Structure (104)  |  Theory (353)  |  Trait (10)  |  James Watson (16)

I think that the formation of [DNA's] structure by Watson and Crick may turn out to be the greatest developments in the field of molecular genetics in recent years.
‘Discussion des rapports de M Pauling’, Rep. Institut International de Chemie Solvay: Conference on Proteins, 6-14 April 1953 (1953), 113.
Science quotes on:  |  Development (122)  |  DNA (50)  |  Formulation (14)  |  Genetics (79)  |  Greatest (23)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Structure (104)  |  Thinking (166)  |  James Watson (16)

And now the announcement of Watson and Crick about DNA. This is for me the real proof of the existence of God.
In Playboy Magazine (Jul 1964), as cited in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Announcement (5)  |  DNA (50)  |  Existence (150)  |  God (234)  |  Proof (136)  |  Real (28)  |  James Watson (16)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon 8 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Crick's birth.
  • book icon Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets, by Robert Olby. - book suggestion.
  • book icon Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, by Matt Ridley. - book suggestion.
  • book icon Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • book icon Of Molecules and Men, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • book icon Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • book icon What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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