What’s in a name?
Rosalind Franklin inspired our name. You may know of her work, or you may not. If you have time to read about her story do, as it is fascinating both with respect to the science and also to see what it was like as a female scientist in the early 1900s.
A brief run down…
Rosalind graduated from Cambridge in 1945 with a doctorate in physical chemistry. After a short stint in Paris where she learnt the technique of X-ray crystallography, she joined a research group at King’s College in London. During her short career (Rosalind died from ovarian cancer at the young age of 38), she researched the structure of many biologics including the tobacco mosaic and polio viruses. However, the research she is most well known for is that of the structure of DNA. By using X-ray diffraction, Rosalind captured an image of DNA (famously referred to as ‘Photo 51’) that led to the discovery of its double-helix structure. Without her knowledge, this photo was shown to her colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University who correctly interpreted this finding and published it in the journal Nature in 1953. While Rosalind also published in that issue, it was not the primary publication. Watson, Crick and another researcher, Wilkins, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work in 1962. The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously so Rosalind’s contribution was not acknowledged. Some say it would not have been even if she was alive, but we will never know!
What we do know is that her legacy as a pioneering health and medical researcher and as a strong, intelligent and resilient woman is definitely recognised today.
If you want to read her story there are numerous books. One we enjoyed is Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox.
The four publications in Nature and one in The Journal of Experimental Medicine describing the evidence that underpinned the discovery of the structure of DNA are available online.