When you think of who discovered DNA, the names Watson and Cricke may come to mind. In reality, many other scientists’ research lead to their discovery. That information was not necessarily given freely. When Watson saw a picture of DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin a “light bulb” went on. It was then that he realized exactly what it looked like and was able to publish his results. Unfortunately, Rosalind did not offer this information to Watson and Cricke. It was stolen from her. She did not receive credit for the work she had done with DNA and therefore has gone unnoticed in most biology classes.
On July 25 1920, Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born in London England. She excelled in school, especially chemistry and biology. At the age of 15, Franklin had decided to become a scientist even thought her father wanted her to be a social worker. (Maisel,1) Her father disapproved of a University Education for women and initially refused to pay for admission. (Maisel, 1) Eventually he agreed to pay for, but only after constant pressure from her mother and aunt. (Sayre, 1) It was then that she attended Newnham College in Cambridge in 1938. (Maisel, 1)
Following her years of education, she had many accomplishments in her career as a scientist. Franklin’s studies lead to major discoveries about the properties of coal, the density of DNA and more importantly, it’s helical conformation. (Sayre, 1) Unfortunately, most biology classes credit the discovery of DNA’s structure solely to Watson and Cricke. The importance of Rosalind Franklin’s work is simply ignored. Immediately after her graduation from Newnham College in 194, she began work at the British Coal Utilization Research Association.
She conducted fundamental studies of carbon and graphite, which lead to her doctorate in Physical Chemistry earned at Cambridge University. Following her time at Cambridge, Franklin spent three years (1947-1950) at the Laboratoire Central des Sevices Chemiques de L’Etat in Paris where she learned techniques for x-ray diffraction. (Maire, 1) In this process, ” the location of atoms in a crystal can be precisely mapped by looking at the image of the crystal under and x-ray beam. ” (Ardell, 1) Rosalind Franklin soon became known as the world’s best crystallographer.
(Parshall, 72) This would become vital to her career in the future since it was the technique used to get a general idea of DNA’s shape. Shortly after this training in Paris, Franklin returned to England as a research associate. She had been offered a position in a laboratory at King’s College in Cambridge and would eventually produce her most influential work there. (Maire, 1) She was asked to join a team of Scientists studying living cells and was assigned to work with a graduate student, Maurice Wilkins, on DNA. (Sayre, 1) When she joined the project, Maurice Wilkins was on vacation.
When he returned, he immediately assumed that she was merely an assistant. (Sayre, 1) In fact, Franklin alone was given the task of determining the elusive structure of DNA. Even though she was thought of as an assistant, she was his peer. (Ardell, 1) This relationship was depicted in Watson’s story, “The Double Helix. ” Even though they were truly equal, it was apparent that women were not treated with the same amount of resect men that men were offered. (Ardell, 1) For example, females were not allowed to have lunch with male colleagues because the dining room was for men only.
(Parshall, 74) Franklin rebelled against this treatment, and refused to share her data with Wilkins unless she was treated as an equal. (Parshall, 74) The tension this relationship caused would eventually be beneficial for the Watson and Cricke teams. (Sayre, 1) Despite the fact they were “barred from doing original research,” Watson and Cricke were determined to become famous by discovering its structure. Franklin had already made amazing progress in this field. Using the poor equipment at King’s College, she was able to “rig up a system for taking high resolution photographs of single fibers of DNA.
” From these pictures she was able to determine the sugar phosphate backbone of DNA lies outside the molecule. (Write, 172) These pictures also showed the molecule’s helical shape. (Write, 172) After Watson attended a lecture presented by Rosalind Franklin, they spent 24 hours building what they believed to be an accurate representation of the molecule. Unfortunately Watson did not take notes and “disastrously misremembered portions of what Franklin said. ” (Sayre, 1) Their first attempt was a failure.
Watson and Cricke had built a three-chain DNA molecule with a backbone on the inside. So when they approached her with what they believed to be a correct model, “they were quickly deflated. ” Franklin pointed out they had provided “only a tiny fraction of the necessary water content. ” (Sayre, 1) For the next year Watson and Cricke did not work on the DNA molecule. (Parshall, 73) Following the attempt of a colleague to determine the evasive structure, Watson and Cricke began the process again. (Parshall, 173) Only this time they went to Wilkins for help.