NPR : News

Filed Under:

Highest Bidder Will Get DNA Pioneer's Nobel Medal

This is no ordinary family heirloom.

The granddaughter of English scientist Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA who passed away in 2004, is putting his Nobel Prize medal up on the auction block.

"It had been tucked away for so long," said Kindra Crick, 36, of the medal. "We really were interested in finding someone who could look after it, and possibly put it on display so it could inspire the next generation of scientists."

In 1953, Crick and his collaborator, James Watson, published their research into the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for all living things. Nine years later, in 1962, the pair (along with Maurice Wilkins, a New Zealand-born physicist and molecular biologist) shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the achievement.

According to the website LiveScience, there is little precedent for the sale.

"Nobel medals appear to have changed hands publicly in only a couple of instances. This particular medal, like others made before 1980, is struck in 23-carat gold, and recognizes a particularly high-profile accomplishment in biology, one fundamental to modern genetics."

While the medal itself will clearly be the centerpiece of the April 10-11 sale at Heritage Auctions in New York City, other items will also be offered to the highest bidder, including a Nobel Prize diploma, the check from the Nobel Foundation for prize money in the amount of 85,739.88 Swedish krona (endorsed on the back by "Doctor Francis Crick"), a soiled lab coat worn by the famous scientist (embossed with a stylized DNA helix on the pocket), and a model of the DNA molecule built by Crick and Watson in 1953.

Heritage Auctions' Sandra Palomino has valued the medal and the diploma at $500,000, which she says is "an educated guesstimate."

The Crick family plans for a portion of the proceeds of the sale to benefit research institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom, including the Francis Crick Institute, scheduled to open in London in 2015.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Anne Tyler: "A Spool Of Blue Thread" (Rebroadcast)

In her first live radio interview ever, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler joins Diane to talk about her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread."


Fine Brine From Appalachia: The Fancy Mountain Salt That Chefs Prize

An artisanal salt producer is processing brine from ancient ocean deposits below West Virgina's mountains. The company, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, ships to top chefs who value the salt's minerality.

Downed Russian Warplane Highlights Regional Divide On Syria

Hugh Pope, director of communications and outreach at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, explains the growing divide between Turkey and Russia on their priorities inside Syria.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.