Monday, January 15, 2007

Rosalind Franklin - Revealed DNA's Structure


Rosalind Franklin - Photographed DNA's Structure

"Who was Rosalind Franklin? The snippy, standoffish, supporting player? The brilliant, wronged woman? Or somebody else entirely? There are deeper mysteries in life than DNA, and some of them may never be solved". - Lev Grossman -

Rosalind Franklin discovered the existence of the A and B forms of DNA. Through her ingenious and meticulous use of X-ray crystallography she managed what no one else had done before, to produce clear x-ray diffraction patterns of DNA.
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Nobel Foundation (C) Crick, Watson, & Wilkins
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Rosalind Franklin's work was pivotal in the development of an understanding of how DNA works. Ms. Franklin died never knowing that the results of her work had been "informally communicated" to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1962) "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".

Rosalind Franklin died of Cancer in 1958 at the age of 37, possibly as a result of exposure to the X-rays she used in her research.

While Watson, Crick, and Wilson later credited Ms. Franklin's contributions as pivotal to the development of an accurate model of DNA, Ms. Franklin was never nominated or awarded the Nobel Prize as she had already succumbed from cancer. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

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Rosalind Franklin's Photograph 51*

What role sexism played in her research materials being passed to other researchers without her knowledge is a matter of debate. It is known that her relationship with King's College, where she conducted her research, was considerably strained, and that this religious institution didn't even allow Ms. Franklin to eat in the same room as her male colleagues.

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Additional Reading

An article appearing on the New Humanist Website provides insight into Rosalind Franklin's struggle with her father, and with organized religion.

An excellent program which featured the Rosalind Franklin story appeared on PBS.

An article on BBC's website written by Rosalind Franklin's nephew appears here..
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The wikipedia article on Rosalind Franklin.
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Copyrighted Materials Used
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  • Photograph of Crick, Watson, and Wilkins used via Free Use. Copyright retained by the Nobel Foundation.
  • Lev Grossman Quote is from Time Magazine.
  • I created the Photograph 51 Slide Show using images from PBS. For a description by Lexi Krock of the importance of the photograph, and how to interpret the slides, go here.
  • General information adapted for this post were taken from several of the links provided above.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sheer Genius. Every bit as important as Watson and Crick. Fascist, racist,sexist English. Some things change very,very slowly. RIP.

email jp

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