Rosalind Franklin: The Chemist Who Contributed to the Discovery of DNA Structure

As a scientist, Rosalind Franklin left an impressive legacy, despite having died at the young age of 37. Her contribution to the study of the structure of DNA was fundamental, especially in the area of X-ray crystallography. On her work, which was later used by Watson and Crick for their famous DNA model, Franklin laid a cornerstone for the study of genetics and Biology.

Who Was Rosalind Franklin?

Rosalind Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer born in London in 1920. She attended Cambridge University, where she earned a PhD in physical chemistry in 1945. After her degree, she taught at the St Bartholomew’s Medical College and then moved to Birkbeck College, where she started researching the structure of DNA.

Franklin’s Early Years

Franklin was the eldest of five children of Ellis Franklin and Muriel Waley Franklin. Her father had a successful banking career and wanted the best for his five daughters; therefore he sent them to private schools. Rosalind was more studious than her siblings and had an early interest in science. At the age of 15, she decided to pursue a career in Chemistry, a male-dominated field at the time. During that period, women were discouraged from attending universities and Franklin could only get a place at Cambridge as a Research Student.

Franklin’s Contributions to DNA Research

Franklin’s major breakthrough came in 1951, when she obtained a clear X-ray diffraction image of the B form of DNA. This image provided evidence of the DNA double helix structure. Unfortunately, Franklin’s work was not properly acknowledged and she was never credited for the discovery of the double helix structure. Nevertheless, her contribution to the research played a major role in the discoveries of Watson and Crick.

Franklin’s Later Research on Viruses

After leaving Birkbeck College in 1953, Franklin continued to be actively involved in research, this time focusing on particles influencing the climate of the earth and the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. She used imaging technologies to identify their structure, which had the potential to revolutionize the study of virus. To do this, she had to collect data for months, analyzing thousands of measurements.

Franklin’s Impact on Science

In 1958, Franklin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, posthumously. Her research is not only in the field of Biology and Genetics but also in the physical sciences. Although she never received the credit she deserved, her work provided a better understanding of the structure of molecules and the functioning of cells, propelling the field of molecular biology. Her passion and dedication were the driving forces of modern molecular biology.

Rosalind Franklin is one of the most celebrated figures in science, and rightly so. Her work brought new insights into the world of molecular biology and made it possible to unravel the mysteries of DNA. Her work revolutionized the field of biological research and, to this day, she continues to inspire many future scientists and researchers.