Last Thursday, April 25th, was DNA Day. We are celebrating DNA Day by featuring Rosalind Franklin as our STEM Like Me scientist of the week.
Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist who helped the scientific community understand the molecular structure of DNA, RNA, viruses, and more. She worked at the British Coal Utilisation Research Association from 1942-1947, when she began her research on coal and earned a Ph.D. In 1947, she moved to Paris for her post-doctoral research, and became an accomplished X-ray crystallographer. Then in 1951, she became a research associate at King’s College London, working on X-ray diffraction studies. Through these studies, Franklin captured what would later be discovered as the first image of DNA, Photo 51: an image that led to the discovery of the double helix shape that makes up DNA.
Franklin’s colleague, Maurice Wilkins, would later show her picture to James Watson and Francis Crick, who were also researching the structure of DNA. This was done without Franklin’s permission, and Watson and his colleagues were able to deduce the structure of DNA through Franklin’s photo. They went on to publish a series of articles about the discovery, and only mentioned Franklin’s contributions in a footnote. She left King’s College in 1953 due to disagreements with Wilkins, and moved to Birkbeck College. She stayed here conducting pioneering research on the molecular structure of viruses until her death in 1958. Four years after her death, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. While there was not a rule against posthumous awards, the Nobel Committee does not generally make posthumous nominations so Rosalind Franklin did not receive an award. We still want to recognize her for her contributions to our understanding of DNA. Featured Image from Wikipedia.