DNA, RNA, Chromosomes, and Genes

History of Nucleic Acids

Who was Rosalind Franklin?

Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958) was a chemist by training; in 1951, she worked at King’s College, London, in the lab of English physicist and biophysicist John Randall (1905–1984). Both Franklin and Randall were working on the structure of DNA using the relatively new field of X-ray crystallography. Through meticulous research on the DNA molecule, Franklin took photographs that indicated a helical structure. Randall presented Franklin’s work at a seminar where it was then (without Franklin’s knowledge) provided to the competitors (Watson and Crick) at Cambridge University. This research was crucial to the detailed description of DNA that was published in 1953. Because the Nobel Prize is only awarded to the living, Franklin, who died of cancer in 1958, did not share the award—it was given to Watson, Crick, and Wilkins in 1962.


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