A Heroine in the Structure of Life - An Essay on Biophysicist Rosalind Franklin

A Heroine in the Structure of Life - An Essay on Biophysicist Rosalind Franklin

In the year 1920 on the 25th of April science met one of its most prominent minds. Rosalind Franklin was born in Notting Hill London to a baker and was one of five children. In an age where the education of women was not considered necessary, she had a ready mind, so her parents sent her to one of the few girls schools in London; St. Paul's Girls School, where she quickly showed promise in science, Latin, and sports. It was during her time at the Girls School that she decided she would be a scientist. After the start of WWII the Franklin family helped to hide refuge Jews from Nazi’s in their home, all her life Rosalind was raised to understand the importance of life. After finishing her education at St. Paul's Girls School she went on to Newnham College where she finished her undergraduate in 1941, in 1945 she completed her doctorate at Cambridge University (Biography.com).

By 1947 Rosalind had been hired by a lab in Paris, there she began her study of x-ray defraction and began to make a name for herself in the world of science. She caught the attention of John Randall, the head of the biophysics department at Kings College London. She using her knowledge of x-rays to study the structure of DNA with Maurice Willkens. They used defraction to try and identify how the strands fit together, and together they discovered the existence of the A and B strands of DNA (snsc.edu). Because of the social climate in the mid 1900's Franklin's work was thought of as subpar, and she was considered Willkens assistant.

In 1953 science was at the brink of discovering the structure of DNA, Franklin has begun working on manuscripts hinting at the double helix structure, James Watson and Francis Crick of Cambridge University were coming to the same conclusions. By February James Watson and Francis Crick had “unlocked the secret of life” and were beginning to build a model of the double helix structure that would be completed on March 7th that year. A significant portion of the data used by Watson and Crick came from Franklin and her associate Maurice Willkens, but Franklin had decided to transfer to Birkbek College, and the head of the program at Kings College insisted that the work on DNA say there. Because of this copies all her images and reports were given to Cricks thesis adviser. Without the work of Rosalind Franklin the structure of DNA would have taken much longer to discover (Brenda Maddox 140-147).

After her transfer in 1953 to Brikbak College, she continued her study of molecular science and contributed greatly to the understanding of the tobacco mosaic virus, a single stranded RNA virus that attacks plants. She was appointed as a senior researcher and The Agricultural Research Center funded her studies, with her team at Brikbak, she studies the structure of RNA and DNA and in 1955 completed a model of the tobacco mosaic virus and had a paper published in a nature journal concerning work with it (Biography.com and scsd.edu).

In 1956 Rosalind Franklin started having health problems, after suspecting something was wrong she went to the doctors where they operated immediate and found two large tumors in her abdomen. For the next two years Rosalind Franklin would fight a losing battle with cancer. On April 16th 1958, the world lost an amazing scientist. Even though in her life Rosalind Franklin struggled with recognition because of her gender, she is recognized today as a pioneer in molecular biology and will not be quickly forgotten as one of the discoverers of DNA's structure.