The untold story of the woman who helped to make one of humanity's greatest discoveries - DNA - but who was never given credit for doing so. 'Our dark lady is leaving us next week.' On 7 March 1953 Maurice Wilkins of King's College, London, wrote to Francis Crick at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge to say that as soon as his obstructive ...
The untold story of the woman who helped to make one of humanity's greatest discoveries - DNA - but who was never given credit for doing so. 'Our dark lady is leaving us next week.' On 7 March 1953 Maurice Wilkins of King's College, London, wrote to Francis Crick at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge to say that as soon as his obstructive female colleague was gone from King's, he, Crick, and James Watson, a young American working with Crick, could go full speed ahead with solving the structure of the DNA molecule that lies in every gene. Not long after, the pair whose names will be forever linked announced to the world that they had discovered the secret of life. But could Crick and Watson have done it without the 'dark lady'? In two years at King's, Franklin had made major contributions to the understanding of DNA. She established its existence in two forms, she worked out the position of the phosphorous atoms in its backbone. Most crucially, using X-ray techniques that may have contributed significantly to her later death from cancer at the tragically young age of thirty-seven, she had taken beautiful photographs of the patterns of DNA. This is the extraordinarily powerful story of Rosalind Franklin, told by one of our greatest biographers; the single-minded young scientist whose contribution to arguably the most significant discovery of all time went unrecognised, elbowed aside in the rush for glory, and who died too young to recover her claim to some of that reputation, a woman who was not the wife of anybody and who is a myth in the making. Like a medieval saint, Franklin looms larger as she recedes in time. She has become a feminist icon, the Sylvia Plath of molecular biology. This will be a full and balanced biography, that will examine Franklin's abruptness and tempestuousness, her loneliness and her relationships, the powerful family from which she sprang and the uniqueness of the work in which she was engaged. It is a vivid portrait, in sum, of a gifted young woman drawn against a background of women's education, Anglo-Jewry and the greatest scientific discovery of the century.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-09-03 Her photographs of DNA were called "among the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken," but physical chemist Rosalind Franklin never received due credit for the crucial role these played in the discovery of DNA's structure. In this sympathetic biography, Maddox argues that sexism, egotism and anti-Semitism conspired to marginalize a brilliant and uncompromising young scientist who, though disliked by some colleagues, was a warm and admired friend to many. Franklin was born into a well-to-do Anglo-Jewish family and was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. After beginning her research career in postwar Paris she moved to Kings College, London, where her famous photographs of DNA were made. These were shown without her knowledge to James Watson, who recognized that they indicated the shape of a double helix and rushed to publish the discovery; with colleagues Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, he won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Deeply unhappy at Kings, Rosalind left in 1953 for another lab, where she did important research on viruses, including polio. Her career was cut short when she died of ovarian cancer at age 37. Maddox sees her subject as a wronged woman, but this view seems rather extreme. Maddox (D.H. Lawrence) does not fully explore an essential question raised by the Franklin-Watson conflict: whether methodology and intuition play competing or complementary roles in scientific discovery. Drawing on interviews, published records, and a trove of personal letters to and from Rosalind, Maddox takes pains to illuminate her subject as a gifted scientist and a complex woman, but the author does not entirely dispel the darkness that clings to "the Sylvia Plath of molecular biology." (Oct. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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