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Series: Women who changed the world - Rosalind Franklin

“Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment.” ― Rosalind Franklin

The woman who made an integral contribution to the DNA discovery. Rosalind Elsie Franklin, a name in science who was equally intriguing and controversial. Her research work in deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA lead to the discovery of double helix structure. Rosalind excelled at science and decided to become a scientist at a young age. Franklin's mother once said, “Rosalind knew exactly where she was going, and at sixteen, she took science for her subject.” The zeal to do research was always with her.

Her work in measuring micro-structures (which she was first to identify) and this fundamental work made it possible to classify coals and predict their performance to a high degree of accuracy, yielded her doctoral thesis. Eventually, received her PhD from Cambridge in the year 1945. Later, in the year 1946, she polished her technique in X-ray crystallography and worked immensely in the field. A pioneer in analysing carbons using X-ray crystallography. She carried out her research in King’s College. Her work got appreciated by J. D. Bernal and called her X-ray photographs of DNA, “the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken.” It is these data which helped James Watson and Francis Crick to determine the DNA Double Helix. Her contribution to the discovery was appreciated much later and debate about her credit still continues.

She then continued her work at Birkbeck College, where she studied the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus. She was hugely victorious at this work, published many scientific papers and continued her work till her death. In 1958, she died of ovarian cancer at the age of 37, and she was at the peak of her career.

A passionate woman who worked hard and made her contribution visible to the world. She loved travelling and also enjoyed discussions in science and politics. Her legacy is far beyond, and it still reflects in many remarkable ways. Science institute, awards and many other things have been made after her. The latest addition, in 2022, her legacy will extend into space, as the planned robotic rover named Rosalind Franklin sets off to explore Mars. Over the years, she has been remembered in a multitude of ways. Her work reflected the dedication towards science, and she lived through it. So let's begin our march towards making her proud.

With thanks - this article was written by Vrinda Nair.

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