There's an interesting video of ten famous women scientists at Interesting S_Word: [Top 10 Female Scientists of History]. The image of Rosalind Franklin caught my eye (see right).
Perhaps I'm nitpicking but fake news is all the rage these days so I think we'd better be extra careful to present real facts rather than alternative facts. In that spirit, I'll mention two things.
- This is a photo of physicist Lise Meitner (1878-1968). The video has been corrected in other versions (see below).
- Rosalind Franklin did not produce or publish the first X-ray diffraction photos of DNA. I know of three people who produced images before her. William Astbury published X-ray diffraction photos of DNA in the 1930s. The analysis of those photos revealed that DNA was a repetitive structure with a distance of about .34 nm between layers. This data was well known to Maurice Wilkins, Franklin's boss, when he took his own X-ray diffraction photos several years before Franklin joined his lab. His graduate student, Raymond Gosling, also collected images before Franklin arrived. (Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize with Watson & Crick.)
She did careful measurements that defined the unit cell and established many of the features of DNA. Watson & Crick, who were also experts in X-ray diffraction, were able to use this information plus other information about the biology of DNA to construct an accurate model—the famous double helix.
There's no reason to distort Rosalind Franklin's contribution by saying she took the first images when that's clearly not true.
The story of Rosalind Franklin is complicated. I've tried to write an honest summary at: [Rosalind Franklin's Birthday]; [The Story of DNA (Part 2)]; and [The Franklin & Gosling Nature paper (1953)].