British intelligence probed Nobel laureate for spying

Maurice Wilkins was suspected of passing US nuclear secrets to the Russians.

Updated: Aug 26, 2010, 16:43 PM IST

London: Nobel prize winning scientist Maurice Wilkins, who had carried out pioneering work on the DNA, was investigated by the British intelligence in the 1950s as they had suspected him of passing nuclear secrets to the Russians, reveal files released on Thursday.

The Guardian reported that the files show Wilkins was investigated for leaking nuclear secrets.

Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the DNA double helix.

He was investigated by MI5 as a possible spy who had passed US nuclear secrets to the Russians. MI5 is the counter-intelligence and security agency of Britain.

The security service files released on Thursday show that the scientist had worked during the World War II on the Manhattan Project in which the hydrogen bomb was built at Los Alamos in New Mexico.

The US` Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1951 told the MI5 that one of the nine scientists was in close contact with members of the American Communist Party.

Wilkins was placed under surveillance. His mails and movements were tracked.

The only evidence against him was from an MI5 officer who had been with Wilkins at St Andrews University when the first of the spies, Allan Nunn May, had been uncovered in 1946.

Wilkins had known May and defended his action.

The probe was dropped two years later in 1953 when his colleagues insisted that any Leftwing sympathies had disappeared.

"He comes to the college every morning with a copy of The Times, which he has apparently read on the journey," MI5`s informant was quoted as saying.

IANS