Maurice Wilkins

By: Alexa Kennedy

Wilkins Background:

Date Of Birth:

December 15, 1916 in Pongaroa, New Zealand

Date of Death

October 5, 2004

Wilkins has a family history in the medical field, for example, his father was a doctor. In order to pursue his medical career he moved his family to England when Wilkins was 6 where he says he discovered his scientific intrigue.


  • Wilkins first spent his early years of schooling in England at King Edwards School at the age of 6
  • He then, in 1938, graduated from St. John's college in Cambridge where he earned his PH.d. and worked with John Randall at Birmingham University improving the radar. Scientist were in heavy demand due to the fact that England was at war.

Contribution to Physics: (SUMMARY)

Maurice Wilkins, along with colleagues Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling began using X-rays to produce diffraction images of DNA molecules which led to the deduction of the 3D helical nature of DNA. This process occurred in three phases. Phase 1 was where he produced x-ray images of DNA and during the second phase of his studies he produced images from squid sperm in which he determined that DNA was helical. He then successfully isolated single fibers of DNA and studied the acidic structure while leading a project at King's College during the 3rd phase to signify and correct the DNA model, as well as rNA structure, proposed by scientists Watson and Crick. Maurice Wilkins also combined science with the political realm of the world as he used his knowledge to spread awareness and solutions to famine and nuclear disarmament.

Contributions to Science:

Wilkins contributed to science in various aspects including;

  • Phosphorescence- thermal stability of trapped electrons
  • Isotope Separation-bombs (Manhattan project)
  • Optical Microscopy
  • X-Ray Diffraction
  • Development of the Radar- cathode ray tube screens