25 July 2014
The X File
This deceptively simple image revolutionised molecular biology. It also represents one of the most notorious controversies in science. ‘Photo 51’ was taken by Rosalind Franklin, who was born on this day in 1920. It is an x-ray crystallography image of DNA, created by bombarding a tiny DNA sample with x-rays for more than 60 hours. To most of us, this striped cross might not mean much, but to a few scientists in 1953 it held the secret to the structure of DNA. The controversy surrounds the instant Maurice Wilkins, who worked in Franklin’s lab, showed the photo to Francis Crick, a molecular biologist at Cambridge University, without Franklin’s knowledge. Crick published a paper with his colleague James Watson describing DNA’s double-helix structure. Wilkins, Crick and Watson shared the Nobel Prize in 1962. Franklin, whose peers never accepted her, died of cancer four years earlier, and couldn’t receive the prize posthumously.
Written by Nick Kennedy
Image by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Goslin
Copyright held by Oregon State University Libraries
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A woman makes a massive discovery and wins her male colleagues a nobel prize !
wait.. that sounds familiar, wasn’t Dr. Marie Sklodowska Curie originally overlooked as the principal discoverer of Radium and radiation?
At least that mistake was corrected and the random dude isn’t in her Radium pictures anymore
And then there is Dr. Marthe Gautier,
she discovered the genetic basis behind Down Syndrome (the first genetic cause ever found for any disease) but her contribution to science is still ignored to this day, in favour of the male colleagues who stole her work.
I’m sure we could go on, but the point is; is there really a lack of women working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), or are their names just hidden behind and others ?