A letter that scientist Francis Crick wrote to his son regarding his Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the structure of DNA has set a new world record at Christie's.
It is now the most valuable letter ever sold at auction, after realising an outstanding $6m in New York last night (April 10). In doing so, it soared past its $2m estimate by 202.9%.
The previous record for any letter at auction was held by an Abraham Lincoln note that sold for $3.4m in April 2008 - the current price represents a 78.2% increase on this record.
The auction is followed today by the Heritage Auctions sale of the Nobel Prize medal awarded to Crick.
The letter was handwritten by Crick on March 19, 1953 and sent to his 12 year old son Michael, who was at boarding school at the time. The remarkable missive sees Crick tentatively explaining his "beautiful" discovery to his son, and even includes a sketch of DNA's famous double helix structure.
"In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life," he modestly reveals.
Crick's co-discovery with James Watson of DNA's shape, and the code behind it, today forms our understanding of how life is made and replicated. The famous double helical structure of DNA had long been supposed, but it was Crick and Watson who first proved it with their model.
With this sale, scientific and technological collectibles are sure to see a surge in interest. In February, PFC Auctions sold a series of letters between Albert Einstein and the socialist philosopher Corliss Lamont for $11,661.
Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering a fantastic signed letter from Thomas Edison, the great inventor who gave us electric light, the motion picture camera and the phonograph, along with many other life-changing contraptions.