Rosalind Franklin


Born: 25 July 1920
Died: 16 April 1958 (ovarian cancer)
Birthplace: London, England
Best known as: The woman whose crystal studies showed the structure of DNA
Rosalind Franklin's X-ray studies of molecules played a crucial role in the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA. Rosalind Franklin was born and raised in London, and received both a B.A. (1941) and a PhD (1945) from Cambridge University. She studied coal during World War II and then spent a few years in France before returning to King's College in London as a research fellow. Her specialty was X-ray crystallography: the analysis of crystals formed by certain molecules. A detailed X-ray photograph she made in 1952, which she called Photo 51, clearly suggested the double-helix structure of DNA. Franklin was one of many scientists looking for the structure of DNA at that time, and when Photo 51 was shown to Francis Crick and James Watson (without Franklin's knowledge, as it happened) it was the final insight they needed to determine the true double-helix form of DNA. Watson and Crick published their findings to much acclaim in 1953. Franklin continued to do research, mainly on viruses, until her untimely death from cancer at the age of 37 in 1958.
Extra credit:

The credit (or lack of it) given to Rosalind Franklin for her work has been discussed in great detail since her death; many of Franklin’s supporters feel that Watson and Crick were given credit that Franklin deserved. Because Franklin died in 1958, she was ineligible to be included in the Nobel Prize for Medicine which Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared in 1962… Since 2003, the Royal Society of the UK has given a Rosalind Franklin Award “for an outstanding contribution to any area of natural science, engineering or technology”… The Illinois school known as Finch University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School changed its name in 2004 to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

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