Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made significant contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. She was born on July 25, 1920, in London, England.
Franklin’s work on X-ray diffraction images of DNA played a crucial role in the discovery of the DNA double helix structure. In the early 1950s, she conducted X-ray crystallography studies of DNA fibers, producing high-quality images that revealed key structural information. However, her contributions were not fully recognized during her lifetime.
James Watson and Francis Crick, along with Maurice Wilkins, used some of Franklin’s data without her knowledge to propose the double helix structure of DNA in 1953. The model they presented was based in part on Franklin’s images, and their discovery was a pivotal moment in the understanding of the genetic code. In 1962, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on the structure of DNA. Unfortunately, Franklin had passed away by that time and was not eligible for the Nobel Prize.
Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to science extended beyond DNA research. She also made significant contributions to the understanding of the structure of RNA, the tobacco mosaic virus, coal, and graphite. Her work laid the foundation for advancements in molecular biology and biophysics.
Tragically, Rosalind Franklin’s career was cut short when she died of ovarian cancer on April 16, 1958, at the age of 37. In the years following her death, there has been increased recognition of her contributions to science, and her legacy is now acknowledged for its impact on the understanding of the molecular basis of life.