Rosalind Elsie Franklin


Rosalind Elsie Franklin Famous memorial

Notting Hill, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, England
Death 16 Apr 1958 (aged 37)
Chelsea, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, England
Burial Willesden, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 5858699 View Source

Chemist. Rosalind Elsie Franklin, as an English chemist, played a critical role in the discovery of Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, but her untimely 1958 death of ovarian cancer at age 37 eliminated her from the nomination for the Nobel candidacy. Her research partner was Maurice Wilkins, a New Zealand-born British biophysicist. Trying to determine the structure of the DNA molecule at King's College in London, they started to work together in the early 1950s, but with different personalities, eventually worked isolated from each other on the same project. Franklin's x-ray diffraction images were important for the unlocking in 1953 of the mystery, a long spiral with twin threads. Using her photo #51, Francis Crick, a 35-year-old with only a bachelor's degree in biology, and James Watson, a 23-year-old American with a PhD in molecular biology, developed, on the second try, a model for a helical structure of DNA on February 28, 1953, which they published in "Nature" on April 25, 1953. For this model, they received the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Her partner Wilkins jointly shared their 1962 Nobel Prize. The Nobel committee does not give posthumous prizes. Wilkins had shared her photo images with his long-time friend Crick at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. In the same edition, she and Wilkins published papers on their part of the discovery in "Nature." She published a total of five papers on DNA. Besides researching DNA, she was involved with understanding of the molecular structures of RNA or ribonucleic acid, various viruses, coal, and graphite. Born the second of five children into a wealthy, Jewish family, she was educated in a private school, St. Paul's Girls' School, excelling in science and mathematics. Besides English, she spoke French, Italian, and German. In 1941 she graduated from Newnham Women's College at Cambridge University with a degree in Natural Science and a scholarship, before she enrolled for a PhD in physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge. While studying under the chair of the physical chemistry department, she felt that she did not receive the support needed to receive a PhD. Some sources state she was not receiving the support because she was a female student with a goal of a science PhD. For that reason, she left Newnham College after one year, accepting a position at the British Coal Utilization Research Association in 1942 and earning her PhD from Cambridge in 1945. Not only did she have a published thesis, but five other papers were submitted. During her lifetime, she published 19 articles on the physical structure of coal. During World War II, she worked as an air raid warden. After her PhD, she traveled for a year worldwide as a lecturer. In 1947 she accepted a position at the State Chemical Laboratory in Paris, where she perfected her skills in X-ray crystallography. By 1951, she had returned to London to begin her work with Wilkins at King's College, where she was given a three-year research scholarship. She was to improve the X-ray crystallography unit at King's College. Wilkins was already using X-ray crystallography trying to solve mystery of the DNA problem. When she began her research at King's College, very little was known about the chemical makeup or structure of DNA. She presented her research data at a lecture in King's College at which James Watson was in attendance. After the DNA discovery in 1953, she accepted a position at Birkbeck College in London, working on the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus. As a pioneer in virology, her research during this time became some of the most important of her lifetime. She published 21 papers on viruses. She resumed her traveling career as a lecturer on coal and virus structure. Science was only a part of her busy life; she loved to travel and enjoyed outside sports, such as hiking. In the fall of 1956, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With 10-month remission after three surgeries and experimental chemotherapy, she lived for 18 months. When she was able, she continued her research in the laboratory. Her death at a young age limited the recognition that she would have received as an outstanding scientist. Named in her honor, the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is located in Chicago, Illinois. Given annually by Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Rosalind Franklin Award is awarded to a woman, "who exhibits leadership qualities, and have pioneered efforts in industrial biotechnology and agriculture and related fields." Also being awarded annually is the Rosalind Franklin Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics at the University of Southampton in Great Britain. Established in 2003, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award is awarded annually by the Royal Society in London to an individual for outstanding work in any field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to support the promotion of women in these categories. Since 2002, the Rosalind E. Franklin Award has been awarded by National Cancer Institute in the United States for the commitment of women in cancer research.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: David Conway
  • Added: 19 Oct 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 5858699
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 Jul 1920–16 Apr 1958), Find a Grave Memorial ID 5858699, citing Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery, Willesden, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find a Grave .