Wednesday Geek Woman: Rosalind Franklin

This is a guest post by L. Minter. L. Minter is a feminist biology student and a blogger at Feminist Book Club.

Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist who made significant contributions, but whose work is often overlooked. Franklin was responsible for producing the X-Ray diffraction images that Crick and Watson used to describe the double helical structure and size of DNA. She essentially discovered the shape of DNA, and wrote many papers which were never published. When her work was published as a series of three DNA articles, it was published last, giving most of the credit and attention to Crick and Watson’s work (the first two articles). This is one of the reasons why Franklin is brushed over in the history of DNA discovery.

Another reason why she is neglected from history, is that during her research she developed ovarian cancer (at the young age of 37) and died before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Crick and Watson for their collective work. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously. It is widely believed that her work on DNA using X-Rays was a major cause of her cancer.

Despite her contributions not only to DNA discovery, but also to Tobacco Mosaic Virus, RNA, and the Polio Virus, Franklin put up with a considerable amount of sexism at King’s College as well as patronizing attitudes from Crick and Watson themselves. She is an example to all young aspiring female scientists not to be discouraged from pursuing important research.

Wikipedia: Rosalind Franklin
People and discoveries profile of Rosalind Franklin.

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3 thoughts on “Wednesday Geek Woman: Rosalind Franklin

  1. tenya
    for those fans of Hark! A Vagrant

    Luckily I have seen a recent uptick in crediting Frank when DNA is mentioned, such as say, at the college I attended, or the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum. How many more female researched have similar stories, though?

    1. L. Minter

      That was a great comic! And surprisingly accurate (they did call her Rosie, despite her protest). You’re right, though, it is a sad story for female scientists. Women hold more than 50% of all Ph.D.s in science, yet are less likely to attain research positions, and more likely to drop out before reaching tenure. That’s why we have to encourage girls to pursue studies in science:

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