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Franklin, Rosalind (1920 - 1958) British x-ray crystallographer

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Introduction

Franklin, Rosalind (1920 - 1958) British x-ray crystallographer Franklin was a Londoner by birth. After graduating from Cambridge University, she joined the staff of the British Coal Utilisation Research Association in 1942, moving in 1947 to the Laboratoire Centrale des Services Chimique de L'Etat in Paris. She returned to England in 1950 and held research appointments at London University, initially at King's College from 1951 to 1953 and thereafter at Birkbeck College until her untimely death from cancer at the age of 37. Franklin played a major part in the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. With the unflattering and distorted picture presented by Watson in his The Double Helix (1968) her role in this has become somewhat controversial. At King's, she had been recruited to work on biological molecules and her director, John Randall, had specifically instructed her to work on the structure of DNA. When she later learned that Maurice Wilkins, a colleague at King's, also intended to work on DNA, she felt unable to cooperate with him. ...read more.

Middle

It did not, however, contain the crucial idea of base pairing, nor did she realize that the two chains must run in opposite directions. She first heard of the Watson-Crick model on the following day. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) Rosalind Franklin was a physical chemist who is best remembered for her contributions to the studies of coal, DNA, and plant viruses. She was born in London on July 25, 1920, the daughter of well-to-do Jewish parents. She received an excellent background in physics and chemistry at St. Paul's Girls' School and entered Cambridge University in 1938. At the age of 22, she gave up her fellowship to take her first position as a physical chemist at the British Coal Utilization Research Association. Between 1947 and 1950 she worked in a lab in Paris. It was there that she learned X-ray diffraction techniques, working closely with crystallographer Jacques Mering. In 1951, she left France for a three year research fellowship at King's College. Working with poor equipment, Franklin rigged a system for taking high-resoloution photographs of single fibers of DNA. ...read more.

Conclusion

This information proved crucial in helping Watson and Crick apply their mathematical models which eventually lead to their discovery of the specific structure of DNA. In a moment of scientific euphoria compounded by less than complete scientific honesty, Watson and Crick published their results in the scientific journal "Nature" (25 April 1953, vol. 171, pp. 737-738) without acknowledging the influence of Franklin's work. Wilkins and Franklin each have articles in the same issue of Nature, Franklin's showing an image of the now famous Photo 51. Franklin, went on to study the tobacco mosaic virus, and continued her work in absolute dedication, despite having been diagnosed with cancer in 1956 (probably due to the chemicals she was using). She died two years later, 37 years old, never knowing how much her work had played a role in Watson and Crick's discovery. In 1963 they received the Nobel prize for their discovery, along with Wilkins, Franklin's collaborator. In 1968 Watson's popular book, The Double Helix, recounted the events leading to their ultimate discovery, making clear for the first time how critical Franklin's experimental work had been. Franklin's social isolation prompted by the contempt male scientists showed toward her as a woman-scientist, is one of the tragedies in the history of science. .................. ...read more.

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