The Watson-Crick Nobel: Was Someone Left Out?


Seventy years ago, the most important work in modern biology was published in the journal Nature - on the structure of DNA. Three articles finally proved that DNA was the genetic material by showing its structure. One was by Dr. Maurice Wilkins and his team, another by Dr. Rosalind Franklin and a doctoral student named Ray Gosling. The third was by Drs. James Watson and Francis Crick. The result was the birth of molecular biology, but it was controversial.

Dr. Rosalind Franklin was the X-ray crystallographer who produced much of the key data that captured the structure of DNA. She was a colleague of Dr. Wilkins at King's College and their relationship was so strained she abandoned her work.

But her photo was the single key piece of evidence to solving the DNA structure. She supervised her doctoral student, Ray Gosling on Photo 51, an X-ray image of the DNA that all high school students have probably seen. She presented critical measurements of DNA at a talk that was passed on to Drs. Watson and Crick without her consultation. This strengthened the thought that DNA was doubled stranded with each strand running in opposite directions.

Drs. Watson and Crick used this data to propose a detailed physical model that explained DNA structure and sealed the argument. The pair were awarded the Nobel. Some claim her work was stolen which might be an over-reach. But the pair did not give her the credit she deserved. The Nobel can't be given posthumously, but her work on DNA was certainly deserving of it.

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