(2) Francis Crick

Francis Crick was one of Kandel’s biggest heroes, almost on the same level as Sigmund Freud. Kandel has basically followed Crick’s example in turning toward the study of consciousness in his later career.

When Francis Crick first entered biology, after World War II, two great questions were thought to be beyond the capacities of science to answer: What distinguishes the living from the nonliving world? And what is the biological nature of consciousness? Crick turned first to the easier problem, distinguishing animate from inanimate matter, and explored the nature of the gene…In 1976, at age sicty, Crick turned to the remaining scientific mystery: the biological nature of consciousness…Despite almost thirty years of continuous effort, Crick was able to budge the problem only a modest distance…Crick’s enormous contribution to biology put him in a class with Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. VS Ramachandran described Crick’s last weeks:

"Three weeks prior to his death I visited him in his home in La Jolla. He was eighty-eight, had terminal cancer, was in pain, and was on chemotherapy; yet he had obviously been working away nonstop on his latest project. His very large desk—occupying half the room—was covered by articles, correspondence, envelopes, recent issues of Nature, a laptop (despite his dislike of computers), and reent books on neuroanatomy. During the whole two hours that I was there, there was no mention o fhis illness—only a flight of ideas on the neural basis of consciousness. He was especially interested in a tiny structure called the claustrum which, he felt, had been largely ignored by mainstream pundits. As I was leaving he said: “Rama, I think the secret of consciousness lies in the claustrum—don’t you? Why else woul dtheis tiny structure by connected to so many areas in the brain?”—And he gave me a sly, conspiratorial wink. It was the last time I saw him." (p.384)