Rosalind Franklin

January 7, 2016

Born: 25 July 1920

Died: 16 April 1958

Nationality: United Kingdom

 

Born in 1920 in London, England, Rosalind Franklin earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Cambridge University. She learned crystallography and X-ray diffraction, techniques that she applied to DNA fibers. One of her photographs provided key insights into DNA structure.

 

Other scientists used it as the basis for their DNA model and took credit for the discovery. In April, National Geographic News published a story about the letter in which scientist Francis Crick described DNA to his 12-year-old son. In 1962, Crick was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, along with fellow scientists James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

 

Several people posted comments about the story that noted one name was missing from the Nobel roster: Rosalind Franklin. Her data was critical to Crick and Watson's work. But it turns out that Franklin would not have been eligible for the prize—she had passed away four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins received the prize, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously.

 

Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958, at age 37. But even if she had been alive, she may still have been overlooked. Like many women scientists, Franklin was robbed of recognition throughout her career.

 

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