March 9th: Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind_Franklin

Rosalind Franklin was an insanely brilliant chemist who specialized in X-ray crystallography (or X-ray diffraction).  Franklin knew from a young age that she wanted to be a scientist, and her parents sent her to one of the only girls’ schools at the time that taught physics and chemistry. This unique education, gave her the foundation to go on to later earn herself a PhD.  In 1951, Franklin began working on using X-ray diffraction to research the structure of DNA which, at the time, scientists were struggling to understand.  After perfecting the process of X-ray diffraction, Franklin was able to take a picture of DNA, making a groundbreaking discovery in its structure.  Unfortunately, because she was a perfectionist, Franklin waited to publish her work, and it was stolen by her boss, and given to two other scientists who took all the credit.  The two other scientists were even awarded a nobel prize for work that was based off of the research they had stolen from Franklin (people speculate that Franklin would have been given the award too, but she had already died and the award is not awarded posthumously).  After the theft was discovered, following Franklin’s death, one of the scientists went so far as to say that because Franklin was a woman, she wouldn’t have been smart enough to draw the conclusions he and his partner came to (a claim that was easily disproven by reading her journals).  Rosalind Franklin was a key player in discovering the structure of DNA and was unfortunately never recognized for it in her lifetime.  She developed ovarian cancer, most likely due to overexposure to radiation, and died at the age of 37.

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