Los Angeles Times

Nobel laureate Maurice Wilkins, Oct. 5

Nobel laureate Maurice Wilkins, one of the scientists involved in the discovery of the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), died on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2004 in a London hospital. He was 88. Wilkins was born in 1916 in New Zealand and studied physics at St. John's College, Cambridge. During World War II, he worked on the separation of uranium isotopes, and then joined the Manhattan Project. As James Watson wrote in his 1968 book, The Double Helix, Wilkins was profoundly disillusioned when the bombs were dropped on Japan. "He considered forsaking science altogether to become a painter in Paris, but biology intervened," Wilkins wrote. it was his initial work on X-ray crystallography that was so critical to the discovery of DNA. The technique uses scattered X-rays to produce images of the structure of molecules. Wilkins, together with Rosalind Franklin, found that the long chains of DNA were arranged in the form of a double helix. "Watson and Crick then used the data to show that the organic bases of DNA were paired in a specific manner in the intertwined helices," said Lord May of Oxford, president of the Royal Society. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in medicine in 1962AP/ Alastair Grant, file