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April 18, 2003 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-18

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Left: Rosalind Franklin
in the laboratory

The Dark Lady Of DNA

Book, PBS documentary reveal young Jewish scientist's
contribution to the discovery of the double helix.


Special to the Jewish News





osalind Franklin devoted her professional
life to uncovering mysteries of science,
but it's mainly through a recent book
and new TV documentary that the mys-
tery of her obscurity is being uncovered for a wide
Franklin, a British Jew, provided important dis-
coveries toward revealing the structure of DNA, the
basic substance of life and heredity. Unknown to
her, James Watson and Francis Crick used an X-ray
photo image she had developed to come up with the
findings that ultimately gave them a Nobel Prize.
Watson and Crick shared the prestigious award
with Maurice Wilkins, who showed them the critical
image, which came to be known as Photo 51, while
he served as deputy director of the lab where
Franklin had worked.
Brenda Maddox, a British journalist and biogra-
pher, takes a close look at Franklin's achievements
and the intricacies of the scientist's personal life in
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Harper
Collins; $29.95).
NOVA, the PBS science program, explores the
same subject through Secret of Photo 51, which airs 8
p.m. Tuesday, April 22, and 1 a.m. Wednesday, April
23, on WTVS- Channel 56.
Interviews with Maddox and distinguished scien-

tists who had worked with Franklin are part of the
television show narrated by actress Sigourney
"I'd like people to remember
Rosalind Franklin as a co-dis-
coverer of the double helix
(DNA structure)," says
Maddox, who also has
written biographies of
D.H. Lawrence and
W.B. Yeats.
"I'd also like people
to remember her as an
example of somebody
using every minute of
life and never giving in.
She went to the lab and
continued working up
until the end, when she died
of [ovarian] cancer. That kind
of human spirit is totally

Above: Working without
Franklin's knowledge that
her work was being used,
Watson and Crick built
their now celebrated
model of the double
helix of DNA.

X-ray crystallography, capturing the inner structure
of molecules through photographs.
After working on the structure of coal with
a scientific group in Paris, she accepted a
post at King's College in London to
study the structure of DNA with
Wilkins. The two did not get
along and pursued their work
separately, with Franklin discov-
ering two different forms of
DNA and making pictures of
each type.
Because of her unhappy
experiences at King's College,
Franklin sought other oppor-
tunities and went on to work
on viruses at Birkbeck
College, also in London,
where she made great strides
and began getting internation-
Franklins al attention.
Photo 51 of
Franklin's professional col-
the B form of DNA, leagues often became her close
which told future Nobel friends, and she vacationed
Giving Franklin Her Due
Prize winner James Watson with them, as travel remained
that the molecule was a helix. one of her main interests out-
Franklin, born to a wealthy Jewish family in
1920 and one of five children, knew from the
side work.
age of 15 that she wanted to be a scientist. She
Her family's commitment to Jewish causes
earned her doctorate in physical chemistry at the
instilled her with a curiosity about seeing Israel, and
University of Cambridge and became an expert in
she was very impressed with the projects she

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