Rosalind Franklin and DNA

Anne Sayre | Rosalind Franklin and DNA

Rosalind Franklin’s research was central to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. She never received the credit she was due during her lifetime.

In this classic work Anne Sayre, a journalist and close friend of Franklin, puts the record straight.

«Franklin’s X-ray crystallography of DNA (dubbed Photo 51) was the key data in the discovery of DNA structure, for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. After death, Franklin was largely forgotten outside the scientific community. However, her importance surfaced when Watson published his memoir The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA in 1968. Although the DNA research centred on Franklin, Watson mostly portrayed her as “uninteresting”, “belligerent”, “sharp, stubborn mind”, with her dresses showing “all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents”, “the product of an unsatisfied mother”, a physical bully, and always referring to her as “Rosy”, the name she never appreciated. After reading the book, Sayre felt that Franklin was grossly misrepresented in her personal qualities. She called The Double Helix as “every known prejudice against intellectual women”. She quickly started researching for materials, and after five years, she published Rosalind Franklin and DNA in 1975, which she claimed not as a biography, but as a protest to Watson’s. These two books became the posthumous fame for Franklin. However, Sayre’s book is criticised for its strong feminism, its attempt to make Franklin as a feminist icon, and wrongly representing sexism of the time.» [Wikipedia]

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