Share via Email If bricks and mortar can heal, the dedication of a building in Waterloo this month could end one of the great personal quarrels in the history of science. But irony will hang heavy over the occasion. Franklin died before the prize was awarded. Nobel Prizes are never given posthumously. The college now knows the part it played in creating the tension between Wilkins and Franklin. In , the head of its biophysics unit, Professor John T.
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Stasiak lau. In the 25 April issue of Nature, three consecutive short papers ushered in a new era in biology by unveiling an ingenious model of the DNA structure, together with the X-ray diffraction data crucial for its formulation. The best known of the three papers is the one by James Watson and Francis Crick, who both then worked at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University.
Watson and Crick proposed that DNA forms a right-handed helix composed of two anti-parallel DNA strands, which are kept together by specific hydrogen bonds between adenines and thymines and between guanines and cytosines. The notion of complementarity was born, and it immediately suggested a conceptually simple mechanism for copying genetic information over generations of cells and organisms.
It was Wilkins who initiated the X-ray diffraction studies of DNA fibres and who obtained the first promising diffractograms suggesting that DNA could be helical. However, it required the experience and experimental skills of Franklin to obtain high-quality X-ray diffractograms that contained the definitive information that Watson and Crick needed to propose their famous DNA model.
Good fortune accompanied Watson, Crick and Wilkins, as in they shared the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the DNA structure, and will soon be rejoicing the golden jubilee of their memorable finding. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Franklin, who died of cancer at the age of 37 in , well before the Nobel committee could have considered the significance of her contribution.
This tragic fate cut short the life of a very talented researcher, and no one could have prevented it. However, in her case, there is a profound feeling of overwhelming injustice, because she was also deprived of the exceptional fame as one of the co-discoverers of the DNA structure, the fame that lasts much longer than life itself.
Historians of science, and the scientists directly involved, have frequently reanalyzed the complex interactions between Franklin, Wilkins, Watson and Crick at the time of the determination of the DNA structure in the early s. All who are concerned with these questions will find this new book very interesting. Brenda Maddox, an award-winning biographer, researched the story with tremendous accuracy. She interviewed all major participants in the DNA race, and collected information from friends and family members of Rosalind Franklin.
The resulting book is first of all a moving biography of a girl, and then a young woman, who devoted her life to science. The science is very well presented and the two principal questions mentioned above are considered at length. In April Nature will certainly devote a lot of space to the Watson and Crick paper, and will perhaps even reprint it.
This would be a very appropriate occasion for Watson and Crick to write a long-overdue corrigendum, stating that the high-quality X-ray data obtained by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling a Ph. Such a corrigendum would reassign part of the merited fame to Rosalind Franklin. For her it no longer matters, but we would all feel better. While teaching our students scientific ethics, we could replace the bad example with a good one.
ISBN 0 8. Was her work ignored because it was insignificant or because she was antisocial? The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. Open in a separate window Franklin was the eldest daughter of a wealthy, upper middle class, established British Jewish family, which owned banks and a publishing company. Believing that her parents thought her less important than her three brothers, she none the less excelled at school and at Cambridge University. A brilliant physicist, she worked for the British government, doing original and important work on the nature of different coals, using x ray crystallographic techniques. After the second world war, she spent several years in Paris directing research using x rays to study coal and other solids.
The first lady of DNA
Stasiak lau. In the 25 April issue of Nature, three consecutive short papers ushered in a new era in biology by unveiling an ingenious model of the DNA structure, together with the X-ray diffraction data crucial for its formulation. The best known of the three papers is the one by James Watson and Francis Crick, who both then worked at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University. Watson and Crick proposed that DNA forms a right-handed helix composed of two anti-parallel DNA strands, which are kept together by specific hydrogen bonds between adenines and thymines and between guanines and cytosines.