colorful illustration of DNA double helix

Rosalind Franklin  1920–1958

A career in science is often marked by intense competition with other researchers to make and publish discoveries. In her career as a chemist, Rosalind Franklin learned that other researchers will go to extreme lengths to ensure their own fame.

Rosalind Franklin was born in London, England and excelled academically throughout her school years. When it came time for Rosalind to attend college, her father objected strenuously, feeling that women had no need of higher education. After her aunt offered to pay the tuition, her father relented and Rosalind attended Cambridge University. By the age of 26, she had achieved her Ph.D. and published several research papers.

Rosalind Franklin became an expert in using x-rays to image crystal structures and complex molecules. In her laboratory, she produced the first images of the double helix structure of DNA. Unfortunately, her work was given by a rival scientist to James Watson and Francis Crick who used her images and discoveries in their own paper on DNA. She was given little to no credit in the discovery for which they received the Nobel Prize.

Franklin then changed her research focus and in five years published 17 papers on viruses and their molecular structure. Tragically, Rosalind Franklin developed ovarian cancer and died at the age of 37. She is an inspiration to women in the sciences for her careful, detailed approach to problem solving and for her courage to continue in the face of great adversity.

You May Also Like:

Share →