Featured Scientist: Rosalind Franklin

By: David Nathaniel N. Niro

“Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment. That is why, science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated,” hence imparted by Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin, born on July 25, 1920 in United Kingdom, was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who paved way to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, and viruses, unbeknown to man at first.

Coming from a wealthy Jewish family, Franklin valued education and public service. She enrolled in Cambridge University where she studied physics and chemistry. Then, she went to work for the British Coal Utilization Research Association for her Ph.D. thesis, which later allowed her to travel the world as a guest speaker.

At age 26, she moved to Paris to master her skills in X-ray crystallography, her life’s work. Upon the mastery of crystallography, she began working with Maurice Wilkins, a friend of Francis Crick and James Watson. However, different as their personalities were, a divide has been formed. Franklin kept her work from her colleagues in relative isolation.

However, unknown to Franklin, Watson and Crick saw some of her unpublished data, including “photo 51”. Watson and Crick used this X-ray diffraction picture of the DNA molecule, an obvious helical model, together with their prior data to create “their” DNA model. Franklin’s contribution was not acknowledged until her death, but later after that Crick admitted the critical contribution of Franklin.

Franklin is an adventurous person whose mind enjoyed spirited scientific and political discussions and whose body loved to work hard and play hard. Indeed, Franklin is in the shadows of science history, for while her work on DNA was crucial to the discovery of its structure, her contribution to that landmark discovery was not shined upon the eyes of man.

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