DNA co-discoverer's letter to fetch top dollar

23:15, Feb 27 2013
Francis Crick
NOBEL PRIZE WINNER: Francis Crick's letter to his son explaining his discovery of DNA's double helix structure is up for auction.

A letter by Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, outlining the Nobel Prize-winning achievement to his young son, is expected to fetch as much as US$2 million (NZ$2.4m) when it is sold in April, auction house Christie’s said.

Crick and James Watson unravelled the double-helix structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) while working together in Cambridge, England, in 1953. They received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1962 for their ground-breaking work.

In the seven-page, handwritten letter, Crick, who was 33 years old at the time, described the discovery to his 12-year-old son Michael, who was away at a British boarding school.

"When you come home we will show you the model," he wrote in the letter.

Crick went on to say he believed DNA was a code and that the order of the bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene.

"In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life. You can understand that we are very excited," Crick added, before signing the letter, "Lots of love, Daddy."

In his later years Crick was a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. He died in 2004.

The letter, which is being sold by Crick's son, will be part of the books and manuscripts sale on April 10.

A letter dated August 2, 1939, by physicist Albert Einstein to President Franklin Delano Roosevelet warning him of the potential danger of "the construction of extremely powerful bombs" through nuclear fission sold for more than US$2 million (NZ$2.4m) at auction in 2002.