The Centre proudly takes its name from the New Zealand born Nobel Laureate Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins who was born in Pongaroa in December 15th 1916. At the age of 6, Maurice moved with his family to England. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and studied physics at St. John's College, Cambridge, taking his degree in 1938. During the war, Maurice investigated problems related to the separation of uranium isotopes as part of the the Manhattan Project, but after the war, moved to King's College where he began spectroscopic studies on nucleic acids which eventually led to the use of X-ray crystallography to define the Watson-Crick model of DNA. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. He married Patricia Ann Chidgey in 1959 and they had a daughter Sarah and a son George. Sadly Maurice Wilkins died October 5th 2004.
The family of Maurice Wilkins has generously agreed to continue the memory of one of New Zealand's most illustrious scientific sons through the naming of one of New Zealand Centre of Excellence in Biomedicine. It is perhaps symbolic and encouraging that a man born from such humble beginnings in a small rural New Zealand town (few of us have heard about and even fewer have visited - it is 60km east of Pahiatua in the northern Wairarapa) would later contribute to one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century and indeed of mankind. We are extremely proud of our association with the name and family of Maurice Wilkins as a lasting tribute by his birth country to his historical contribution to science.
Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling (working in the Wilkins laboratory at King's College) produced this now famous X-ray diffraction image of nucleic acid (complete with the rust mark from the paper clip) revealing that DNA was a double helix. Watson and Crick then used this double helix information to propose the double stranded base pairing model (phosphate backbone strands on the outside with paired nucleotide bases pointing inwards). This model immediately suggested a chemical mechanism for the transfer of genetic information. Thus from this modest and primitive photo arose the science of molecular biology that has transformed our world.