Monday, July 30, 2007

Odile Crick, Who Drew Iconic Double Helix, Dies at 86

Odile Crick, an artist whose original sketch of the double helix of DNA, the genetic blueprint for life, became a symbol of modern molecular biology, died July 5 at her home in La Jolla, Calif. She was 86.

Mrs. Crick's illustration of DNA's double helix structure first appeared in the journal Nature in 1953.

The cause was cancer, said her stepson, Michael Crick, who said the family had not announced Mrs. Crick’s death until last week.

The structure of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, was discovered in 1953 by Mrs. Crick’s husband, Francis H. C. Crick, and James D. Watson. The breakthrough laid the foundation for molecular biology by making it clear that the DNA molecule is the medium in which genetic information is stored and passed from generation to generation.

The double helix consists of two chains of DNA spiraling in opposite directions, each made up of four types of chemical units that are linked together. The sequence of those chemical units is the basis for genes, which signal the synthesis of the essential components of every living cell. Dr. Crick, who died in 2004, and Dr. Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1962.

In a brief interview on Thursday, Dr. Watson recalled why he and his colleague had asked Mrs. Crick to make the original black-and-white sketch — based on their mathematical analysis of a pattern of spots revealed by a process called X-ray crystallography — for the April 1953 issue of the journal Nature.

“Francis can’t draw, and I can’t draw, and we need something done quick,” Dr. Watson said. The drawing “showed the essence of the structure,” he said. “And it became historically important, reproduced over and over.”

Dr. Watson pointed out that his sister, Betty, had been recruited to type the historic research paper.

Read rest of New York Times article

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