Women's History Month Feature: Dr. Rosalind Franklin


The month of March signifies the beginning of Women’s history Month. In honor of this occasion, we will be featuring an outstanding woman from history, highlighting the amazing accomplishments of women in our nation’s storied past

Our next installment features Dr. Rosalind Franklin, a scientist whose work led to the foundational knowledge of DNA.

Dr. Franklin was born in 1920 in London to a politically-connected family, including a great uncle who served as the first Jewish Cabinet member in English history. Dr. Franklin excelled academically from an early age and attended Newnham College in Cambridge, where she attained many academic honors.

She received a fellowship to work in a physical chemistry lab at the University of Cambridge under Noble Prize winning scientist, Ronald Norrish. Unfortunately, she found extreme difficulty working with Dr. Norrish and resigned after a year.

Dr Franklin's PhD thesis was on porosity of coal using helium to determine its density. This work allowed her to predict different type of coals performance for fuel purposes and eventually led to the creation of gas masks. Her work allowed her to obtain her doctorate from Cambridge in 1945.



Dr. Franklin went on to study the practice of applying x-ray diffraction to amorphous substances. She took her knowledge of this work to the new research field of DNA at King's College in London.

It was here that Dr. Franklin discovered the density of DNA and established that the molecule existed in a helical formation. Her work making clearer x-ray patterns of DNA led to the eventual conclusion by James Watson and Frances Crick that the structure of DNA was a double helix polymer in 1953.

Dr. Franklin continued working at the Crystallography Laboratory at Birkbeck College from 1953 until her death in 1958. Her research formed the basis for our understanding of DNA structure, as well as better understanding on the uses of coal.


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