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Rosalind Franklin

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British scientist.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958) was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. The DNA work achieved the most fame because DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) plays essential roles in cell metabolism and genetics, and the discovery of its structure helped scientists understand how genetic information is passed from parents to children.

Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to discovery of DNA double helix. Her data, according to Francis Crick, were "the data we actually used" to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA. Franklin's images of X-ray diffraction confirming the helical structure of DNA were shown to Watson without her approval or knowledge. Though this image and her accurate interpretation of the data provided valuable insight into the DNA structure, Franklin's scientific contributions to the discovery of the double helix are often overlooked. Unpublished drafts of her papers (written just as she was arranging to leave King's College London) show that she had independently determined the overall B-form of the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. However, her work was published third, in the series of three DNA Nature articles, led by the paper of Watson and Crick which only hinted at her contribution to their hypothesis.

After finishing her portion of the work on DNA, Franklin led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic virus and the polio virus. She died in 1958 at the age of 37 of ovarian cancer.


1.) "This flat declaration prompted Ellis Franklin to accuse his strong-willed daughter of making science her religion. He was right. Rosalind sent him a four-page declaration, eloquent for a young woman just over 20 let alone a scientist of any age. ..."It has just occurred to me that you may raise the question of a creator. A creator of what? […] I see no reason to believe that a creator of protoplasm or primeval matter, if such there be, has any reason to be interested in our insignificant race in a tiny corner of the universe, and still less in us, as still more insignificant individuals. Again, I see no reason why the belief that we are insignificant or fortuitous should lessen our faith - as I have defined it."" Brenda Maddox, Mother of DNA, - Volume 117 Issue 3 Autumn 2002.

2.) Listed as an agnostic on Rosalind Franklin,