Inspiring women: Rosalind Franklin

I've blogged about many female artists and writers in this series. I suppose that's a fair representation of where my principle interests lie. But I'm not without wider interest and inspiration either. I've been watching a series of documentaries on TVO called The Story of Science. It traces the major scientific discoveries; those that changed our understanding of our world and created entire new disciplines of study.

Last week's episode brought us to more recent times and the discovery of DNA and its structure. I'm sure you know all about the controversy surrounding the discovery of the helical structure (specifically whether Watson and Crick deserve the credit for the discovery). Regardless of the debate, it is true that all the scientists in competition to discover the structure of DNA excelled in their field.

One of those scientists was Rosalind Franklin. Photo 51, her X-Ray photograph of DNA, was key in the discovery the double-helix structure of DNA (her supervisor shared them with Watson without her permission). While researching this post, I also discovered that she was also raised by a father who was against higher education for women, which makes her success in her field all the more odds-defying. Still, it is claimed that she was frequently denied full credit for her work and, as a woman, was not even allowed to use the Senior Common Room at King's College, London.

Franklin died at the young age of 37 from complications arising from ovarian cancer.

Books: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA and Rosalind Franklin and DNA
PBS: Secret of Photo 51

Image via (Copyright (c) Henry Grant Archive/Museum of London)
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