On the 50th anniversary
February 27, 2003 5:17 PM   Subscribe

On the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix spare a thought for Rosalind Franklin the chemist who produced the data that supported the structure.
Franklin, who died before the Nobel prize was awarded, never received credit for her contribution and was on the receiving end of Watson's sexism . But with a new book let's hope in this 50th anniversary year that Rosalind Franklin gets her contribution to this great discovery recognised.
posted by stunned (4 comments total)
Hats off to Linus Pauling as well for discovering the alpha helix of protien structure that sent DNA researchers in the right direction.
posted by Eekacat at 7:22 PM on February 27, 2003

There's much unexplained in these accounts. I haven't read the new book yet, but so far I've seen no satisfactory explanation of why the Wilkins/Franklin misunderstanding wasn't resolved by getting their mutual superior to clarify who was working for whom. My gut reaction is to agree that Franklin was very dishonourably treated, but to feel that she didn't help herself by responding with some anal-retentive game rather than challenging that treatment.
posted by raygirvan at 5:40 AM on February 28, 2003

There was a really good article about Franklin in the New Yorker a few months back. I really wish their website was better and I could post to a link to it. (There's something to be said for having really complete online archives a la Wired.)
posted by Vidiot at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2003

I think in situations like the conflict between Franklin and Wilkins conflict it's probably impossible to pin down the rights and wrongs especially from such a distance - my feeling would be that it was a clash of strong egos probably not helped by the situation of woman scientists in Cambridge in the 50s.
But Watson's attempts to play down her role in the discovery and his outrageous treatment of her in his 1968 book The Double Helix were unethical and deeply unscientific.
We can only guess whether she would have been recognised by Nobel prize committee -which can't be awarded posthumously
posted by stunned at 7:09 AM on February 28, 2003

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