by: Nora Dagher
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 - 16 April 1958), is most definitely a woman you've heard about in your pre-Med/Biology classes! Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who dedicated her life to DNA. Through her work, she attempted to understand the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Her best known work is on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, which, eventually, led to the discovery of the DNA double helix.
Scientists Waston and Crick cited Franklin's data as “key” to determining the 1953 model regarding the structure of DNA. However, Franklin's images of X-ray diffraction confirming the helical structure of DNA were shown to Watson without her approval or subsequent knowledge. Watson and Crick received various accolades for their work in determining that DNA has backbones on the outside, all due to Franklin's unpublished papers. In the field of DNA research, Franklin's work often goes unrecognized while Watson and Crick's is widely praised. It wasn't until much later that Franklin received recognition for her contributions to science.
After finishing her portion of work on DNA, Franklin led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic virus and polio virus. She died in 1958 at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer.
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