Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin

English biophysicist and radiographer, studied the structure of DNA.
Date of Birth: 25.07.1920
Country: Great Britain

Biography of Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin was an English biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer known for her work on the structure of DNA. Born in Notting Hill, London, Franklin came from a wealthy and influential British Jewish family. Her father, Ellis Arthur Franklin, was a merchant banker, and her mother, Muriel Frances Waley, was actively involved in women's suffrage and politics. Franklin was the eldest daughter and second child in a family of five.

Franklin received her education at St. Paul's Girls' School and the North London Collegiate School, where she excelled in natural sciences, Latin, and sports. Her family had close ties to the Workers' Educational Association, where her father taught evening classes and later became the deputy director. The Franklin family also helped settle Jewish refugees from Europe who were fleeing from the Nazis.

In 1938, Franklin enrolled at Newnham College, Cambridge University, where she pursued her studies in physical chemistry. She completed her undergraduate degree in 1941, but, as women were not allowed to receive degrees from Cambridge at the time, she was only awarded an honorary degree. Franklin went on to earn her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in 1945.

After the war, Franklin moved to Paris, where she conducted research on X-ray crystallography. In 1950, she returned to England to work at King's College, London, studying the structure of DNA. Franklin's research focused on using X-ray diffraction to analyze DNA fibers. She made significant advancements in the field, producing high-quality X-ray images of DNA.

Despite her contributions to the study of DNA, Franklin faced challenges and conflicts within her research team. The strained relationship between Franklin and her colleague Maurice Wilkins, compounded by miscommunications and unspoken agreements, led to tensions in their work. Franklin and her student Raymond Gosling discovered the different forms of DNA, labeled as "B" and "A." They found that the fibers changed shape depending on the humidity levels.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick, two scientists from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, famously proposed a model for the structure of DNA. Their model was based on data and images obtained from Franklin and Gosling's work without their knowledge or permission. Watson and Crick published their findings in the journal Nature, solidifying their place in scientific history.

Franklin continued her research at Birkbeck College, University of London, where she worked on the structure of viruses. Tragically, Franklin's life was cut short when she passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 37 in 1958. Despite her untimely death, Franklin's contributions to science and her crucial role in the discovery of DNA's structure continue to be recognized and celebrated today.