In 1962 Francis Crick (1916–2004), James Watson (1928– ), and Maurice Wilkins (1916–2004) jointly received the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for their determination in 1953 of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
Crick earned a bachelor's degree in physics from University College, London, and had helped develop radar and magnetic mines during World War II. As a physicist in biology at the Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge University, Crick was supposed to be writing a dissertation on the X-ray crystallography of hemoglobin when Watson arrived at Cambridge. The two rapidly put together several models of DNA and attempted to incorporate all the evidence they could gather. Rosalind Franklin's excellent X-ray photographs, to which they had gained access without her permission, were critical to the correct solution.
Crick stayed at Cambridge and made fundamental contributions to unlocking the genetic code. He demonstrated that each group of three adjacent bases on a single DNA strand codes for one specific amino acid. He also correctly hypothesized the existence of "transfer" RNA, which mediates between "messenger" RNA and amino acids. After 20 years at Cambridge, with several visiting professorships in the United States, Crick joined the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.