by Matthew Cobb
This letter from Francis Crick was just retw**ted by a pal, @rmathematicus. It was originally tw**ted by the Royal Irish Academy (yes, it does exist, even though it is the Republic of Ireland) last August:
Letter from Crick and Watson to Erwin Schrodinger dated 12 Aug 1953 re: What is Life? & the impact on their careers pic.twitter.com/egMBNcUyR5
— Royal Irish Academy (@RIAdawson) August 12, 2014
Scientists and historians argue over whether Schrödinger’s 1944 book, What Is Life?, which referred to genes containing a ‘code-script’ and being made of an ‘aperiodic crystal’ had any influence on the race to crack the genetic code. What is certain is that Watson, Crick and Wilkins were all inspired by the book to use physics to study biology.
This letter – which I am embarrassed to say I was unaware of – shows that Crick certainly realised the link between the double helix structure of DNA and Schrödinger’s ideas. I wonder what – if anything – Schrödinger replied?
This will require a further edit to the proofs of my book. I sometimes (= often) wish that things would just stop happening – no more scientific research, no more historical discoveries. If they would just stop finding things out, I could get on top of things. But no, the horizon of knowledge is just endlessly expanding.
[EDIT: As I thought, there is no mention of this letter in Robert Olby’s biography of Crick (Francis Crick: Hunter of Life’s Secrets), but it is mentioned on the Nobel Prize website, which has a useful piece on the influence of Schrödinger’s ideas.]