Rosalind Elsie Franklin
(July 25, 1920 - April 16, 1958) was a molecular biologist whose work was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Franklin was born and died in London, England. Rosalind Franklin earned her doctorate degree in physical chemistry at Cambridge University in 1945. She learned X-ray diffraction techniques during three years' study in Paris at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de L'Etat, returning to England to work as a research associate at King's College London with John Randall. There she developed innovations in x-ray diffraction and its use in biological studies that enabled her to obtain critically important pictures of the structure of organic molecules.


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Without her knowledge, another Randall research associate, Maurice Wilkins showed some of her X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA to James Watson, whereupon Watson, with Francis Crick, succeeded in determining the molecule's structure, and published in the journal Nature on April 25, 1953 an article describing the double-helical structure of DNA. An article by Franklin illuminating her X-ray diffraction data supporting the findings of Watson and Crick was published in the same edition. Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958. Some consider it certain that her cancer was caused by exposure to radiation in the course of her research. Four years later, Wilkins, Watson, and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. (The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.)