Sarah Wagner 3/4/15
Rosalind Franklin. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 05:56, Mar 02, 2015, from .
There are many famous names in science. Mendel, Newton, Curie and Einstein, are all names that easily recognized by most people. However, there are many other names, much less well known, that have made great contributions to the world of science but received little fanfare for doing so. Rosalind Franklin is one of these scientists.
Franklin was born in England on July 25, 1920. She attended St Paul's Girls' School and she did exceedingly well in both academics and athletics. She graduated at age 18 and went on to study at the Natural Sciences Tripos at Newnham College in Cambridge. After graduating in 1941, Franklin earned a research fellowship and she joined the University of Cambridge physical chemistry laboratory under Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. She earned her PhD in 1945 and eventually went on to become a researcher at King’s College in London in 1951. It was at King’s College that her most notable work began.
During her time at King’s College, Franklin discovered that she could use X-rays to create the diffracted images of DNA This technique led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. Most people believe that James Watson and Francis Crick are solely responsible for the discovery of the double helix, however this is simply untrue. Watson himself admitted that without Rosalind Franklin’s research and data, it would have been nearly impossible to confirm the structure of DNA. Unpublished drafts of her papers (written are proof that she had independently determined the overall B-form of the DNA helix and the location of the phosphate groups on the outside of the structure. It was a report of Franklin's that convinced Crick and Watson that the backbones of the structure had to be on the outside.
Sadly, Franklin was diagnosed with cancer in 1956. Yet instead of feeling sad or sorry for herself, Franklin pushed ahead and continued working as best she could. She continued her research at King’s College, but eventually lost her battle with cancer in April of 1958. Franklin was never recognized for her work while she was alive. Mainly for the simple fact that she was a female. At the time, females were not considered equal to their male counterparts in the scientific world. Even after the structure of DNA was proven and Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1962, Franklin received no formal recognition for her work, not even posthumously.
Without a doubt, for every well-known scientific hero, there is one who is far less well known, if at all. Rosalind Franklin is, sadly, one of these “unsung heroes” who was disenfranchised simply because she was a woman. Hopefully, one day, her name will take its rightful place among the giants of science.