Rosalind Franklin (1920-58) remains a controversial figure. Since her early death, Franklin has become mythologised as the female victim of male prejudice. According to those versions of the past, James Watson and Francis Crick marginalised Franklin’s original research by taking advantage of her crucial X-ray photograph 51 to build the double helix model of DNA and claim for themselves the Nobel Prize that she should have shared.
Franklin would not have endorsed such exaggerated claims. She regarded herself first and foremost not as a woman, but as a scientist to be judged by her achievements. This particular project occupied a relatively brief period in her successful career: as well as her famous investigations into DNA, she made foundational contributions to modern understandings of coal, graphite and the first ever three-dimensional structures of viruses, publishing nearly forty original articles.
Had she lived longer, Franklin would undoubtedly have maintained and augmented her reputation as a meticulous, innovative scientist.
Minerva Scientifica – Connections 2020