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Rosalind Franklin

Uploaded by almostarmychic on Mar 15, 2007

Rosalind Franklin always liked facts. She was logical and precise, and impatient with things that were otherwise. She decided to become a scientist when she was 15. She passed the examination for admission to Cambridge University in 1938, and it sparked a family crisis. Although her family was well-to-do and had a tradition of public service and philanthropy, her father disapproved of university education for women. He refused to pay. An aunt stepped in and said Franklin should go to school, and she would pay for it. Franklin's mother also took her side until her father finally gave in.
War broke out in Europe in 1939 and Franklin stayed at Cambridge. She graduated in 1941 and started work on her doctorate. Her work focused on a wartime problem: the nature of coal and charcoal and how to use them most efficiently. She published five papers on the subject before she was 26 years old. Her work is still quoted today, and helped launch the field of high-strength carbon fibers. At 26, Franklin had her PhD and the war was just over. She began working in x-ray diffraction -- using x-rays to create images of crystalized solids. She pioneered the use of this method in analyzing complex, unorganized matter such as large biological molecules, and not just single crystals.
She spent three years in France, enjoying the work atmosphere, the freedoms of peacetime, the French food and culture. But in 1950, she realized that if she wanted to make a scientific career in England, she had to go back. She was invited to King's College in London to join a team of scientists studying living cells. The leader of the team assigned her to work on DNA with a graduate student. Franklin's assumption was that it was her own project. The laboratory's second-in-command, Maurice Wilkins, was on vacation at the time, and when he returned, their relationship was muddled. He assumed she was to assist his work; she assumed she'd be the only one working on DNA. They had powerful personality differences as well: Franklin direct, quick, decisive, and Wilkins shy, speculative, and passive. This would play a role in the coming years as the race unfolded to find the structure of DNA.
Franklin made marked advances in x-ray diffraction techniques with DNA. She adjusted her equipment to produce an extremely fine beam of x-rays. She extracted finer DNA fibers than ever...

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Uploaded by:   almostarmychic

Date:   03/15/2007

Category:   Scientists

Length:   3 pages (613 words)

Views:   5941

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