Collection K/PP178 - WILKINS, Maurice Hugh Frederick (1916-2004)

Key Information

Reference code



WILKINS, Maurice Hugh Frederick (1916-2004)


  • 1854-2004 (Creation)

Level of description



170 boxes

Scope and content

Papers of Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins, 1854-2004, including: laboratory notebooks, graphs, data sets, notes, x-ray diffraction photographs and published articles relating to his scientific research, 1948-1976, chiefly his work on the structure of DNA, 1947-1966; correspondence, 1948-2004, with and about scientific colleagues, including Struther Arnott, Allen Blaurock, Francis Crick, Boris Ephrussi, Harriet Ephrussi-Taylor, Bruce Fraser, Meyer Friedman, Raymond Gosling, Leonard Hamilton, John Kendrew, Robert Langridge, Don Marvin, Linus Pauling, Max Perutz, John Randall, Alec Stokes, James Watson and Herbert Wilson.  Correspondence, notes and articles, 1950-2003, relating to research on the history of the discovery of the structure of DNA, including: copies of Rosalind Franklin’s laboratory notebooks and articles, 1951-1953, relating to her DNA research; correspondence, 1967-2003, with writers on DNA history, including Aaron Klug, Robert Olby, Meyer Friedman, Horace Judson and Watson Fuller; unpublished articles and talks on DNA history by Wilkins, 1975-1987.  Drafts, notes, correspondence and collected background research relating to Wilkins’ autobiography, The third man of the double helix (Oxford University Press, 2003).  Papers relating to Wilkins’ education and early career, 1928-1942, including: teenage essays and fiction on the role of science, 1928-1934; notes, articles and photographs, 1937-1938, relating to his student activities, including physics experiments, and photographs relating to his incendiary bomb testing for Cambridge Scientists Anti-War Group, 1938.  Correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports and notes, 1962-1982, relating to the administration of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Biophysics Unit, King’s College London (from 1964, the Department of Biophysics), on topics including funding, staffing, equipment provision and teaching.  Correspondence, course handouts, student essays (CLOSED) and background material, 1971-1996, relating to the undergraduate course, ‘The social impact of the biosciences’, created and run by Wilkins, 1972-1982.  Correspondence, newsletters and conference papers relating to Wilkins’ involvement in political pressure groups, 1968-2003, notably the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (of which Wilkins was founding President, 1969-1991), Food and Disarmament International (Wilkins’ was founding President, 1984-2004), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and the Pugwash Conferences on World Affairs.  Audio recordings, 1972-1996, including lectures by Wilkins on: social responsibility in science; his Eddington Memorial Lectures,Cambridge, 1977-1978, on the history and philosophy of science; nuclear disarmament, 1981; his retirement speech, 1982; the history of DNA.

System of arrangement

Files are grouped chronologically under thematic headings.  There is some overlap between the content of the thematic groups, reflecting Professor Wilkins’ working methods

General Information

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born Pongaroa, New Zealand, 1916; family moved to Birmingham, UK, 1923; educated, King Edward School, Birmingham, 1929-1935, and St John’s College, Cambridge, 1935-1938; joined Cambridge Scientists Anti-War Group and Communist Party; conducted research on luminescence in solids under John Randall, Physics Dept, Birmingham University, 1938-1940; PhD on thermoluminescence in solids, 1940; worked on improvements to radar screens, Ministry of Home Security and Aircraft Production, 1940-1941; worked on the separation of uranium isotopes for British atomic bomb research, codenamed the Tube Alloys Project, 1941-1944; worked at University of California at Berkeley, USA, on the Manhattan Project for the production of the atomic bomb, 1944-1945; Lecturer in Physics, St Andrews University, 1945; Researcher, Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit, Physics Department, King’s College London, 1946-1958; Lecturer in Biophysics, King’s College London, 1958-1963; awarded Nobel Prize for Medicine, 1962, jointly with James Watson and Francis Crick; Professor of Molecular Biology, King’s College London, 1963-1970; President and co-founder, British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS), 1969-1991; Professor of Biophysics, King’s College London, 1970-1981; devised inter-disciplinary undergraduate course, ‘The social impact of the biosciences’, 1972; Director, Medical Research Council Cell Biophysics Unit, 1974-1981; Emeritus Professor of Biophysics, KCL, 1981-2004; President, Food and Disarmament International, 1984-2004; died, 2004.

Conditions governing access

Files containing personal data are closed for 80 years and sensitive personal data for 100 years from the date of the most recent document in the file.

Access may be granted to researchers, and upon signature of a special undertaking, providing such research is for purely statistical purposes and published data is anonymised such as to prevent the identification of individuals.

Where open, access is subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied from open material for research purposes only.

Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archives.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Existence and location of originals

A significant portion of the collection items are available online in the Maurice Wilkins and Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit archive hosted by the Wellcome Library.

Alternative identifier(s)


Place access points

People and Organisations

Genre access points

Rules and/or conventions used

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000.


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