Celebrating 17 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Francis Crick Quotes

Thumbnail of Francis Crick (source)
Francis Crick
(8 Jun 1916 - 28 Jul 2004)

English biochemist and biophysicist who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine establishing the double-helix molecular structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

Science Quotes by Francis Crick (30 quotes)

>> Click for Francis Crick Quotes on | DNA | Life | Molecular Biology | Structure Of DNA | Watson_James |

A busy life is a wasted life.
— Francis Crick
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Life (712)

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 (22)  |  Argument (43)  |  Dislike (9)  |  Experimentalist (9)  |  Impress (7)  |  Message (19)  |  Negative (17)  |  See (99)  |  Sensible (16)  |  Theorist (23)  |  Try (53)

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 (712)  |  Molecular Biology (21)

Altering a gene in the gene line to produce improved offspring is likely to be very difficult because of the danger of unwanted side effects. It would also raise obvious ethical problems.
— Francis Crick
Science quotes on:  |  Alter (10)  |  Danger (51)  |  Difficult (34)  |  Ethical (4)  |  Gene (60)  |  Improve (29)  |  Offspring (13)  |  Problem (281)  |  Raise (9)  |  Reproduction (51)

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 (23)  |  Design (73)  |  Evolution (437)

Chance is the only source of true novelty.
— Francis Crick
Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (1982), 58.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (106)  |  Life (712)

Eventually the process of aging, which is unlikely to be simple, should be understandable. Hopefully some of its processes can be slowed down or avoided. In fact, in the next century, we shall have to tackle the question of the preferred form of death.
— Francis Crick
Science quotes on:  |  Age (102)  |  Avoid (18)  |  Century (73)  |  Death (239)  |  Form (137)  |  Medicine (256)  |  Physiology (60)  |  Prefer (7)  |  Process (164)  |  Question (249)  |  Simple (77)  |  Slow (25)  |  Tackle (2)  |  Understandable (2)

Exact knowledge is the enemy of vitalism.
— Francis Crick
In Of Molecules and Men (1966, 2004), prefatory statement.
Science quotes on:  |  Enemy (37)  |  Exactness (18)  |  Knowledge (1003)  |  Vitalism (5)

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 (63)  |  Molecular Biology (21)  |  Protein (37)

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 (17)  |  Construction (60)  |  Detail (53)  |  Difference (183)  |  Fine (17)  |  Haemoglobin (3)  |  Horse (34)  |  Human Being (33)  |  Identical (14)  |  Molecule (107)  |  Ordinary (33)  |  Pig (7)  |  Significance (47)  |  Similarity (17)  |  Standard (27)

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 (21)  |  Vitalism (5)

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 (26)  |  Sir Lawrence Bragg (12)  |  Class (46)  |  Crystallography (3)  |  DNA (63)  |  Manfred Eigen (7)  |  Experimentalist (9)  |  First (109)  |  Rosalind Franklin (16)  |  Good (150)  |  Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (6)  |  Linus Pauling (35)  |  Rank (16)  |  Select (4)  |  Study (283)  |  Theoretical (6)

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 (29)  |  Discovery (532)  |  Impact (19)  |  Importance (165)  |  Gunther Siegmund Stent (2)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  Style (8)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (73)  |  Structure (155)

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 (92)  |  Reproduction (51)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (129)  |  Life (712)  |  Notorious (5)  |  Word (182)

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 (9)  |  George Gamow (12)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (9)  |  Autobiography (55)  |  Impatience (11)  |  Ruthlessness (3)  |  Thinking (220)  |  James Watson (28)  |  Youth (52)

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 (63)  |  Molecular Biology (21)  |  Protein (37)

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 (63)  |  Molecular Biology (21)

Only time and money stand between us and knowing the composition of every gene in the human genome.
— Francis Crick
Science quotes on:  |  Composition (49)  |  Gene (60)  |  Genetics (92)  |  Genome (5)  |  Human (301)  |  Knowledge (1003)  |  Money (107)  |  Time (313)

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 (60)  |  Molecular Biology (21)  |  Protein (37)

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 (149)  |  Autobiography (55)  |  Credit (13)  |  Discovery (532)  |  Importance (165)  |  Molecular Biology (21)  |  Problem (281)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  Stumble (10)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (81)

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 (123)  |  Complicated (30)  |  Evolution (437)  |  Mechanism (36)  |  Nature (841)  |  Physicist (108)  |  Process (164)  |  Simplicity (118)  |  Theory (506)

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 (28)

When there is publicity about [UFO] sightings that turn out to be explainable, the percentage of unexplained sightings goes up, suggesting that these, too, are caused by something in people’s psychology rather than by something that is actually out there. The UFO evidence forms no coherent residue; it never gets better.
— Francis Crick
Science quotes on:  |  Actual (21)  |  Cause (185)  |  Coherent (8)  |  Evidence (136)  |  Explanation (147)  |  Percentage (4)  |  Psychology (114)  |  Publicity (3)  |  Residue (6)  |  UFO (4)  |  Unexplained (2)

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 (532)  |  Experiment (493)

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 (3)

[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 (21)  |  Assembly (5)  |  Behaviour (23)  |  Brain (153)  |  Lewis Carroll (19)  |  Fact (511)  |  Free Will (6)  |  Identity (9)  |  Joy (42)  |  Memory (72)  |  Molecule (107)  |  Nerve (61)  |  Neuron (8)  |  Sense (160)  |  Sorrow (6)

Quotes by others about Francis Crick (7)

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.
'News and Views', Nature, 1970, 226, 1198.
Science quotes on:  |  Molecular Biology (21)

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 (42)  |  Biology (123)  |  Discovery (532)  |  DNA (63)  |  Secret (80)

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 (123)  |  Confirmation (12)  |  Definition (129)  |  Discovery (532)  |  DNA (63)  |  Elucidation (6)  |  Fundamental (95)  |  Gene (60)  |  Heredity (49)  |  Identification (10)  |  Importance (165)  |  Invariance (3)  |  Gregor Mendel (19)  |  Natural Selection (68)  |  Replication (5)  |  Structure (155)  |  Theory (506)  |  Trait (16)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (191)  |  DNA (63)  |  Formulation (19)  |  Genetics (92)  |  Greatest (48)  |  Molecule (107)  |  Structure (155)  |  Thinking (220)  |  James Watson (28)

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 (6)  |  DNA (63)  |  Existence (208)  |  God (316)  |  Proof (176)  |  Real (63)  |  James Watson (28)

Sodium thymonucleate fibres give two distinct types of X-ray diagram … [structures A and B]. The X-ray diagram of structure B (see photograph) shows in striking manner the features characteristic of helical structures, first worked out in this laboratory by Stokes (unpublished) and by Crick, Cochran and Vand2. Stokes and Wilkins were the first to propose such structures for nucleic acid as a result of direct studies of nucleic acid fibres, although a helical structure had been previously suggested by Furberg (thesis, London, 1949) on the basis of X-ray studies of nucleosides and nucleotides.
While the X-ray evidence cannot, at present, be taken as direct proof that the structure is helical, other considerations discussed below make the existence of a helical structure highly probable.
From Rosalind Franklin and R. G. Gosling,'Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate', Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, No. 4356, 740.
Science quotes on:  |  Consideration (59)  |  Evidence (136)  |  Helix (8)  |  Nucleic Acid (2)  |  Probability (75)  |  Proof (176)  |  Structure (155)  |  Study (283)  |  Suggestion (21)  |  X-ray Crystallography (10)

We wish to put forward a radically different structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. This structure has two helical chains each coiled round the same axis (see diagram).
[Co-author with Francis Crick]
From James Watson and Francis Crick, 'Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid', Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, No. 4356, 737.
Science quotes on:  |  Axis (7)  |  Chain (33)  |  Coil (3)  |  Difference (183)  |  DNA (63)  |  Radical (14)  |  Salt (22)  |  Structure (155)

See also:
  • 8 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Crick's birth.
  • Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets, by Robert Olby. - book suggestion.
  • Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, by Matt Ridley. - book suggestion.
  • Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • Of Molecules and Men, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, by Francis Crick. - book suggestion.
  • 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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Custom Quotations Search - custom search within only our quotations pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

who invites your feedback

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.