Public Release: 

New biography of Francis Crick is released

Book presents a richly detailed portrait of one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


IMAGE: The front cover image of "Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets " is a photograph of Crick as a student at University College London (ca. 1937). view more

Credit: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. (Aug. 25, 2009) - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press has just released a new biography, Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets. It is the first full-length intellectual biography of Francis Crick, a greatly admired and influential scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA and then followed up this discovery with important contributions that shaped the foundations of molecular biology. He later worked in the field of neuroscience, studying vision and the biological basis of consciousness. This book is an in-depth exploration of Crick's passion for the discovery and understanding of the molecules that orchestrate the essential processes of life.

Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets is written by Robert Olby, a Research Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh and one of molecular biology's foremost scholars. Before his death in 2004, Crick invited Olby to write about his life and gave Olby full access to his archives, family, and friends.

"I have immersed myself in Crick's personal papers, spoken with many of his friends, and sought to weave together the insights and vignettes thus won with my account of his life as scientist," wrote Olby in the book's preface. "This, then, is an attempt to shape a dynamic picture of the remarkable evolution of Dr. Crick's career and his role in the shaping of the new foundations for biology."

In 21 chapters, this engrossing biography reveals how, from somewhat unpromising beginnings, Crick became a vital contributor to a remarkably creative period in science. Olby chronicles Crick's life from his early studies in biophysics, to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 and his critical role in deciphering the genetic code, to his later work in neuroscience. In particular, Olby's detailed exploration of Crick's scientific life to the point of the famous 1953 discovery provides a clear demonstration of how chance does indeed favor the prepared mind.

The book contains quotes from personal papers and a gallery of family photographs. It also includes a timeline to help readers track significant events during the course of the 88-year span covered in the book, as well as a biographical index and a full subject index. This fascinating biography will be of interest to readers with a general interest in science, as well as to professional scientists, science historians, and students.

Olby's work on the book was supported by the National Science Foundation and an Archives Fellowship award from Churchill College, Cambridge. His previous works include The Origins of Mendelism (1966) and The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1994).


Francis Crick: Hunter of Life Secrets (© 2009; ISBN 978-087969798-3) is published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. For more information and a complete table of contents, see

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, nonprofit institution in New York that conducts research in cancer and other life sciences and has a variety of educational programs. Its Press, originating in 1933, is the largest of the Laboratory's five education divisions and is a publisher of books, journals, and electronic media for scientists, students, and the general public. For more information, visit

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.