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Unveiling the Unsung Hero: Rosalind Franklin

Wake Forest, NC

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Rosalind Franklin in Paris

In the history of science, only a few names make it to the Hall of Fame. Though focus is primarily put on famous scientists such as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, there is a plethora of outstanding individuals whose accomplishments remain unknown. One of these unsung heroes is Rosalind Franklin, a pioneer who played a critical role in explaining the structure of DNA.


Rosalind Franklin was born in London on July 25, 1920. As a kid, she was extremely intelligent and passionate about science. Eventually, her academic career took her to college, where she excelled and earned a PhD in physical chemistry. She also studied coal at Cambridge University, an experience that honed her skills in X-ray crystallography, a technique that would prove crucial to her future work.


Franklin's career took her to prestigious institutions such as King's College London. Under the oversight of Maurice Wilkins, an eminent biophysicist, Franklin captured the now-famous Photo 51 with mind-boggling precision - a crystal image that held the key to deciphering DNA structure.


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Photo 51

Despite Franklin's significant victory, her journey was riddled with challenges. She worked in a male-dominated field where women were often looked down on. Consequently, her bond with people, like Wilkins, was lacking. Franklin’s troubles only intensified when molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick used her data to discover the DNA double helix, which earned them the 1962 Nobel Prize.


Nonetheless, Franklin's legacy extends far beyond a single discovery. Her meticulous research methods laid the foundation for advances in molecular biology in modern society. Her work deepened our understanding of DNA and led to significant breakthroughs in fields such as genetics and medicine.


Efforts to credit Rosalind Franklin have gained momentum in recent years. Biographers have stressed the importance of recognizing her contributions to science while various institutions commemorate her achievements through lectures, exhibitions, and foundation grants.



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Rosalind Franklin using a microscope.


Beyond her scientific prowess, Franklin is a beacon of inspiration for aspiring researchers, especially for women in STEM. Her resilience through adversity, unwavering commitment, and pursuit of knowledge are virtues that can inspire our modern generation.


When viewing science history, it is critical to remember and credit the unsung heroines like Rosalind Franklin, whose talents illuminated discovery, shaped understanding and inspired future generations.





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