Nobel prize for discovering DNA up for auction

The Nobel prize awarded to Francis Crick in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA has been put up for auction by his family along with one of his lab coats, his books and other memorabilia.

It is believed to be the first Nobel prize placed at auction in more than 70 years and the opening bid is set for USD 250,000, Heritage Auctions said today.

Some of the proceeds from the April 10 auction in New York will help fund research at the new Francis Crick Institute in London set to be completed in 2015.

His family said Crick was a modest man who preferred to outfit his office with a big chalkboard and a portrait of Charles Darwin than to display his many awards. The Nobel has been in storage for much of the past 50 years and his family hopes to sell it to a museum or institute where it can be on public display.

Born in England in 1918, Crick's graduate work was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. He returned to research in 1949 with a position at Cambridge University.

A critical influence in his career was his friendship with the American zoologist and geneticist James Watson. Together, they proposed the double-helical structure of the DNA and the replication scheme in 1953. Crick and Watson subsequently suggested a general theory for the structure of small viruses.

Crick's children have fond memories of the ceremony in Stockholm where the King of Sweden gave him the award, along with Watson and Maurice Wilkins, who also contributed to the discovery.

"It was a great honour to be there," said son Michael Crick, who is also a scientist. "My dad dressed for the occasion, gave a speech and danced with my sister Gabrielle." Crick's initials are engraved on the back of medal, along with the date of the award in Roman numerals. The two-pageNobel diploma is included with the medal.

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