Rosalind Franklin – Antonia Guise

Rosalind Franklin

black and white photo of Rosalind Franklin

So who is Rosalind Franklin? And why am I inspired by Her Story?

Our chain necklace is inspired by Rosalind Franklin. The woman who took possibly the most important photograph of all time…

Rosalind is widely hailed as one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the 20th Century. Uncredited in her time, she is now famous for photographing the structure of DNA using her pioneering technique of x-ray diffraction.  

 Born in 1920, London, Rosalind graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Natural Sciences. 

Having started a PHD in Physical Chemistry, Rosalind took a research position with the British Coal Board. Rosalind made important advances in our understanding of the material. Her experiments and investigations into coal and Carbon led to activated charcoal being used in gas masks in WW2 and in PPE today. 

 Her use of crystallography and x-ray diffraction techniques acquired whist working in Paris,  led to her  accept a three year fellowship at King’s College London, where she began researching the structure of DNA. 

 She, and her assistant Raymond Gosling, fine-tuned the photography process to such a degree that they captured a near perfect photograph showing the molecular structure of DNA. She subsequently drafted a paper suggesting both forms of DNA (A and B) included 2 helices structures. 

 Rosalind held off publishing this as she felt that the observation needed further study before publication. In the mean time Maurice Wilkins, another DNA researcher, shared her photograph without her consent to rival scientist James Watson, who along with Francis Crick, used the image as the basis for the structure of their model and published the findings before she had the chance to complete her further work. 

An extremely able and adaptable scientist Rosalind worked across Biology, Chemistry and Physics. She later moved on to study the molecular structure of RNA in viruses that cause disease in plants and humans. 

 She died of Ovarian Cancer aged 37, the day before she was due to give a presentation on her new findings about the structure of tobacco mosaic virus. 

 After her death all of the other male scientists involved in the research on the structure of DNA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Rosalind was ignored. 

 Intensely concise, direct and yet impatient, Rosalind was a cautious experimental scientist. Unwilling to come to conclusions until she had obtained all the data possible and was satisfied that it all confirmed her hypothesis.  

 

Suggested reading: 

Rosalind Franklin, The Dark Lady of DNA, by Brenda Maddox

My Sister Rosalind Franklin, by Jenifer Glynn

In the Shadow of Men, by Hilary Rose, The Guardian

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