#3 – Rosalind Franklin

Glasses in the olden days were much more extravagant and cumbersome

“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated” – Rosalind Franklin

When I was seven I was good at maths and the wannabe geek inside of me actually enjoyed it. I was top of the class and ready for any problem (though in retrospect when most of the class didn’t even understand concept of multiplication, as well as shoelaces and how to eat toblerones, this doesn’t seem as impressive).

Anyway, I was deemed so good that, along with one of my friends, I was moved onto the highest tier maths book our school had to solve problems and were given a maths challenge to work on. My friend didn’t quite get it, so I did the work and got the answer. When we were asked about it, he piped up quicker than a fat man when he hears about the prospect of cake and gave the answer as his own. he got sweets for “his” working. I got bugger all. I was angry; backstabbed by the colleague I had so helped. So I broke his Power Rangers pencils. That learned him.

When confronted with a similar situation, Rosalind Franklin acted in a much more dignified manner, especially considering that the project both sets of scientists were working on was about the very core of human life itself, DNA. She took it on the chin, and while critiquing the model, she backed it up in further work.

Of course if you know the history, Watson and Crick were the ones to pen a correct description of DNA first and I have nothing against these guys. The problem arises with their associate Maurice Wilkins who had a frosty relationship with Franklin, believing her to be nothing more than a technical assistant. This came to a head when he took, without permission or her knowledge, Franklin’s work to Watson and Crick to analyse, leading to them publishing their work first and getting the plaudits.

To make matters worse, there was a sizeable sexism culture at King’s College at the time, with even Crick admitting that his team developed a “patronising” attitude towards her.

Franklin died of cancer in 1958 and as such was denied a nomination for the Nobel Prize given to Wilkins, Watson and Crick in 1962.


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