The unrecognized hero that changed science.
By: Naya Dukkipati
“In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall succeed in our aims: the improvement of mankind” Rosalind Franklin.
Rosalind Franklin is a woman who changed the science world as her groundbreaking research led to the discovery of DNA structure. At this time, Rosalind was not the only one trying to discover the structure of DNA. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were three other scientists trying to achieve the same goal but through different means. Watson believed science is a race, which meant he was constantly focusing on the answer rather than conducting research. Crick’s and his main objective was not in discovering the structure of DNA, but receiving recognition for their contributions to the discovery and the field.
Rosalind Franklin was a female scientist who, unlike Watson and Crick, believed in experimentation; she was not taken as seriously as her male colleagues because of her gender but that did not stop her from pursuing her interest. She began working at the same college as Maurice because of her experience with X-ray Crystallography, where she could see DNA without using a microscope by taking x-ray diffraction images. She works with Maurice at Kings College using experimentation to discover the structure of DNA; however, since Rosalind values collaboration, she starts to discuss with Watson and Crick. Rosalind ran an experiment and collected research with a student from Kings College to see if they can get any more insight into the structure of DNA. She tested two different fibers of DNA, one being more hydrated than the other. She labeled the more hydrated fiber “form B”, and the other “form A” She took a photo of both fibers, and examined both images. The image of form B showed that DNA had a double helix, and is known as photo 51. The benefits of Rosalind’s approach is that she was able to understand her conclusion because it was supported by evidence. Therefore, her focus on the why but not the answer led her to not realizing the importance of her research. Maurice showed James and Francis Rosalind’s research without her permission because he believed science is a brotherhood, and Watson and Crick used it, which was ethically incorrect because you can only use research that has been published by a scientist or if you’re given special access. By using her research and adopting Maurice’s approach, collaborating with other scientists, they found out which nitrogen bases paired with each other and that DNA strands are antiparallel.
In the end, Rosalind Franklin did not receive initial recognition for her contributions. Fortunately, her involvement was later acknowledged and appreciated throughout the scientific community. While Franklin’s choice to collaborate with other scientists might make you skeptical of making the same mistake, it is important to remember that her contributions not only changed our understanding of science but also how we approach it. Her passion for science is what allowed her to succeed, and while she did not gain the recognition she deserved in her lifetime, she is a hero for women and scientists alike.
Let Rosalind Franklin’s dedication encourage you to never give up despite what others may think or how impossible a situation may seem. Then, maybe one day, you can change the world!