Today’s inspirational female scientist is the wonderful Rosalind Franklin. Rosalind Franklin is probably best known for not getting the credit she deserved for her part in the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Rosalind’s work on DNA was actually only a part of her impressive career. She also conducted pioneering work into the structure of viruses!
Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray images of DNA played a huge part in the discovery of its double helix structure. The twisted ladder shape allows DNA strands to hold huge amounts of information.
Rosalind Franklin Life and Career
Rosalind Franklin was born in London and studied physics and chemistry at Newnham Women’s College at Cambridge University. In 1964 she moved to Paris where she became skilled in X-ray crystallography, using it to find the structure of different carbons.
Rosalind moved back to London in 1951 where she worked at King’s College studying DNA. In May 1952 Rosalind took the infamous photo 51 which showed the X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA.
Rosalind’s image formed a crucial part of James Watson and Frances Crick’s ( who were studying DNA at the same time ) discovery of the double helix structure. Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins ( who she worked with ) were credited in Watson and Crick’s paper about their findings, but unfortunately Rosalind died of ovarian cancer before Watson, Crick and Wilkins received their Nobel Prize. Nobel prizes are never awarded posthumously.
After Cambridge, Rosalind moved to Birkbeck College, London where she led a team who decoded the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus!
What happened next?
Rosalind Franklin may have missed out on a Nobel prize but she left behind a huge legacy. She received her PhD from Cambridge at a time when there were very few women chemists. She was often the only female presenter at scientific conferences and had to fight for the same status and pay as her male colleagues.
A UK built Mars Rover which will visit Mars in 2021 searching for signs of life has been named Rosalind Franklin a fitting tribute for an inspirational scientist who helped decipher the building blocks of life on Earth.
Free Fact File
Activity related to Rosalind Franklin’s work
Make an edible DNA model!
This activity uses toothpicks or cocktail sticks, jelly tots and red liquorice sticks to make a double helix DNA model
More inspirational women scientists
Make models of elements and learn about the work of Marie Curie.
Find out about the wonderful and immensely brave Amelia Earhart.
Marie M. Daly completed groundbreaking research around the effects of diet on the heart and circulatory system.
- Image Credit – By Jewish Chronicle Archive/Heritage-Images http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic-art/217394/99712/Rosalind-Franklin, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24959067
- References – https://www.rosalindfranklin.edu
Last Updated on January 26, 2022 by Emma Vanstone