After scientist Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, he penned a letter to his 12-year-old son describing what he and James Watson found.
The seven-page, handwritten letter to Michael Crick about the Nobel-Prize winning discovery sold at a New York City auction Wednesday to an anonymous buyer for $5.3 million. This beats a Christie’s auction house record for Abraham Lincoln’s letter that sold in 2008 for $3.4 million.
“My Dear Michael,” the letter begins. “Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of des-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. for short.”
“Our structure is very beautiful,” the letter continued later. “D.N.A. can be thought of roughly as a very big chain with flat bits sticking out. The flat bits are called the “bases.”
Christie’s states later in the letter Crick wrote, “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. We have to have a letter off to Nature in a day or so,” Crick wrote.
The letter concludes, “Read this carefully so that you will understand it. When you come home we will show you the model. Lots of love, Daddy.”
Michael Crick’s daughter Kindra said the family decided to sell the medal and other items because they had been in storage for 50 years, first locked up in a room of her grandfather’s La Jolla, Calif., home and later in a safe deposit box.
They chose to sell them now because it “coincides with the 60th anniversary of the historic discovery and 50 years since he received the award,” she said.
Half the proceeds from the Christie’s sale will benefit the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, the granddaughter said. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the Heritage Auctions sale will go to the new Francis Crick Institute in London, a medical research institute slated to open in 2015.
Michael Crick, who was in New York to attend the auctions with his daughter, told The Associated Press that the family hoped the prospective buyers “will give people the opportunity to look at them and that they will be an inspiration for future scientists.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.