Wilkins, Sir George Hubert, 1888-1958, British explorer, b. Australia. He made a number of trips to Antarctica and to the Arctic. Valuable experience gained when he accompanied Vilhjalmur Stefansson's expedition (1913-18) to the Arctic and Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition (1921-22) to Antarctica prepared Wilkins to assume the leadership in the following years of a number of polar expeditions. A pioneer in the method of air exploration, he was the first to fly (1928) from North America to the European polar regions, traveling from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitsbergen; his Flying the Arctic (1928) described his observations during the flights. He was knighted that year. He commanded an antarctic exploration (1928-29) when flights were made in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula, and in 1931 he headed a submarine expedition to the Arctic, an exploit depicted in his Under the North Pole (1931). Though mechanical difficulties made it impossible for his submarine, the Nautilus, to reach the North Pole, Wilkins's work was to be very valuable for future arctic exploration by submarine. From 1933 to 1939 he was manager for Lincoln Ellsworth's transantarctic expeditions. During World War II and afterward, Wilkins served as a geographer for the British army.
Wilkins, Maurice Hugh Frederick, 1916-2004, British biophysicist, b. New Zealand, Ph.D. Univ. of Birmingham, 1940. He conducted research at the Univ. of St. Andrews, Scotland, and at Kings College, the Univ. of London (from 1946 until his death). In Berkeley, Calif., he worked (1944) for the Manhattan Project on the separation of uranium isotopes for use in atomic bombs. Shortly thereafter, he discontinued his research in nuclear physics to concentrate on problems in molecular biology, particularly the structure of DNA (see nucleic acid). In the early 1950s Wilkins successfully extracted some fibers from a gel of DNA, and began photographing them using X-ray diffraction, but his best sample was passed to another researcher, Rosalind Franklin. On the basis of X-ray photographs prepared by her laboratory that appeared to show a helical molecular structure and from other scientific information, F. H. C. Crick and J. D. Watson built a model of the DNA molecule and explained its function. For their work the three men shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

See his autobiography (2003).

Wilkins, Roy, 1901-81, American social reformer and civil-rights leader, b. St. Louis, Mo.; grad. Univ. of Minnesota (B.A., 1923). While a student, Wilkins served as secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Upon graduation, he joined the Kansas City (Mo.) Call, a black weekly newspaper, and was its managing editor until 1931, when he became assistant executive secretary of the NAACP and editor of its official magazine, The Crisis. In 1955 he became executive secretary of the NAACP and in 1965, when the title of the position was changed, executive director, a position he held until 1977. In 1963 he helped organize the historic civil-rights march on Washington, D.C. Devoted to the principle of nonviolence, Wilkins came under increasing attack in the 1960s and early 70s from more militant blacks.
Wilkins or Wilkin is a name variant of William.

It is of medieval origin taken from a diminutive version of William (in the hypocoristic form Will) with the suffix "-kin", meaning "small, or little".

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