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  • The discovery of the structure of DNA

  • was one of the most important scientific achievements in the last century,

  • in human history, in fact.

  • The now-famous double helix is almost synonymous with Watson and Crick,

  • two of the scientists who won the Nobel Prize for figuring it out.

  • But there's another name you may know, too,

  • Rosalind Franklin.

  • You may have heard that her data supported Watson and Crick's brilliant idea,

  • or that she was a plain-dressing, belligerent scientist,

  • which is how Watson actually described her in "The Double Helix."

  • But thanks to Franklin's biographers,

  • who investigated her life and interviewed many people close to her,

  • we now know that that account is far from true,

  • and her scientific contributions have been vastly underplayed.

  • Let's hear the real story.

  • Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born in London in 1920.

  • She wanted to be a scientist ever since she was a teenager,

  • which wasn't a common or easy career path for girls at that time.

  • But she excelled at science anyway.

  • She won a scholarship to Cambridge to study chemistry,

  • where she earned her Ph.D.,

  • and she later conducted research on the structure of coal

  • that led to better gas masks for the British during World War II.

  • In 1951, she joined King's College

  • to use x-ray techniques to study the structure of DNA,

  • then one of the hottest topics in science.

  • Franklin upgraded the x-ray lab and got to work

  • shining high-energy x-rays on tiny, wet crystals of DNA.

  • But the acadmemic culture at the time wasn't very friendly to women,

  • and Franklin was isolated from her colleagues.

  • She clashed with Maurice Wilkins,

  • a labmate who assumed Franklin had been hired as his assistant.

  • But Franklin kept working,

  • and in 1952, she obtained Photo 51, the most famous x-ray image of DNA.

  • Just getting the image took 100 hours,

  • the calculations necessary to analyze it would take a year.

  • Meanwhile, the American biologist James Watson

  • and the British physicist Francis Crick

  • were also working on finding DNA's structure.

  • Without Franklin's knowledge,

  • Wilkins took Photo 51 and showed it to Watson and Crick.

  • Instead of calculating the exact position of every atom,

  • they did a quick analysis of Franklin's data

  • and used that to build a few potential structures.

  • Eventually, they arrived at the right one.

  • DNA is made of two helicoidal strands,

  • one opposite the other with bases in the center like rungs of a ladder.

  • Watson and Crick published their model in April 1953.

  • Meanwhile, Franklin had finished her calculations,

  • come to the same conclusion,

  • and submitted her own manuscript.

  • The journal published the manuscripts together,

  • but put Franklin's last,

  • making it look like her experiments just confirmed Watson and Crick's breakthrough

  • instead of inspiring it.

  • But Franklin had already stopped working on DNA

  • and died of cancer in 1958,

  • never knowing that Watson and Crick had seen her photographs.

  • Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in 1962

  • for their work on DNA.

  • It's often said that Franklin would have been recognized by a Nobel Prize

  • if only they could be awarded posthumously.

  • And, in fact, it's possible she could have won twice.

  • Her work on the structure of viruses led to a Nobel for a colleague in 1982.

  • It's time to tell the story of a brave woman who fought sexism in science,

  • and whose work revolutionized medicine, biology, and agriculture.

  • It's time to honor Rosalind Elsie Franklin,

  • the unsung mother of the double helix.

The discovery of the structure of DNA

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B2 US TED-Ed franklin watson dna rosalind nobel

【TED-Ed】Rosalind Franklin: DNA's unsung hero - Cláudio L. Guerra

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    Sh, Gang (Aaron) posted on 2016/07/14
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