Maurice Wilkins, the ‘third man of the double helix’, who was at King's College London with Rosalind Franklin(1) while Watson and Crick were at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, had some of his correspondence to Crick in the boxes as well. Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski note this choice snarky tidbit:
"This is just to say how bloody browned off I am..." writes Wilkins to Crick and Watson when the duo are barred from model-building in late 1951 after picking up ideas from a King's colloquium. Crick and Watson draft a reply "...so cheer up and take it from us that even if we kicked you in the pants it was between friends. We hope our burglary will at least produce a united front in your group!"And again Wilkins to Crick:
"To think that Rosie had all the 3D data for 9 months&wouldn't fit a helix to it and there was I taking her word for it that the data was anti-helical. Christ."
Another letter fragment and the analysis by the authors in Nature:
"There is also a silly muddle over Franklin’s talk here. I got a big notice saying it was internal only — just a discussion between colleagues who worked in the same lab. Then a lot of notices went round about the Colloquium&I took it for granted all had had the other note... I think that as the intention was to have it a private fight it would be best to keep it entirely so, as I said to Jim. It should be either public or private. Let’s have some talks afterwards when the air is a little clearer. I hope the smoke of witchcraft will soon be getting out of our eyes."Oh my.
This “witchcraft” line, referring to Franklin’s imminent departure from King’s, is likely to find its place in the canon of well-known allusions to her.
Here is the first page of a sample letter provided by Cold Spring Harbor but they state it is not to be copied or reproduced elsewhere. The complete Brenner Collection is at the Cold Spring Harbor Library Archives.
Credit: Courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library&Archives
(1) Though John Randall, founder of the MRC Biophysics Research Unit told Franklin she would have control of DNA research at King’s whereas Wilkins believed they would all be working together on DNA.