Rosalind Franklin was a brilliant chemist and x Ray crystallographer who’s work led to the discovery as well as important inferences about deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. X-Ray crystallography is a fascinating technique that is employed to determine and obtain a three-dimensional molecular structures from a crystal [1]. The crystal is exposed to a x-ray beam which diffracts into specific patterns and is then processed [1]. X-Ray crystallography is a favored method to determine the structure of proteins and biological macromolecules [1].    

Franklin, born in London, studied physical chemistry during her undergraduate career at Newnham College, one of the two women’s colleges at Cambridge University. After receiving her BA, she held a graduate fellowship for a year then transitioned to work at the British Coal Utilization Research Association [2]. Here she studied carbon and graphite microstructures, providing the basis of her doctorate in physical chemistry back at Cambridge University. During her doctorate, she began studying what is now known as DNA. Franklin was responsible for a large portion of the research, discovery and understanding of DNA. Yet much controversy surrounded the discovery of DNA as Franklin did not get the credit or respect she originally deserved due to the political climate of women in stem. She later moved to a different lab to study the tobacco mosaic virus as well as the polio virus before her death from ovarian cancer in 1956 [2].

Rosalind Franklin will forever be remembered as her work gave us crucial clues and information about the structure of DNA! Her brilliant research also led to our understanding of RNA, coals and carbons, and viruses.   

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1. Smyth MS, Martin JHJ. x Ray crystallography. Molecular Pathology. 2000;53(1):8-14.


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