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[TV Special Alert] Photo 51

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Apr 21, 2003.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    PBS Description here.

    One of those "must see" specials which will have me glued to the tv.

    As Sci-Fi Today reports:

    Everybody seems to know about the secret Area 51, but few have ever heard of The Secret of Photo 51. This PBS documentary to be shown on Tuesday April 22 is about <a href="http://www.cp.org/english/online/full/health/030418/x041812A.html">Rosalind Franklin</a>, a London-born mathematics whiz that by age 30 was already a leading expert in the field of <a href="http://www-structure.llnl.gov/Xray/101index.html">X-ray crystallography.</a>

    Using X-rays to capture a photographic "echo" of a molecule, she was hard at work at King's College in London in the early 1950s, working to capture an image of DNA's structure - at that time a total unknown. Providing key evidence with its telltale X-shaped pattern: Franklin's photo No. 51, made during 100 hours of X-ray exposure in May 1952.

    The following January, without Franklin's knowledge, Maurice Wilkins, her fellow crystallographer at King's College with whom she often did not see eye-to-eye, just so happened to show photo No. 51 to James Watson, who was working with Francis Crick on the problem of DNA structure (anyone remember those names? Yep, the ones and only!). Two weeks later, Watson and Crick built their soon-to-be-famous model of DNA: a double helix. They invited Franklin to Cambridge to review the model, but she never suspected that her unpublished research had been a key factor in its development.

    Franklin left King's College, went on to do X-ray crystallography work on the polio virus, and died of ovarian cancer in 1958 at age 37. Her New York Times obituary was just four paragraphs long and noted Franklin's "widespread recognition for her research on virus structure" but made no mention of her work with DNA.

    Brenda Maddox, who wrote the 2002 biography <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060184078/103-9255967-3464635?vi=glance">Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA</a> says Franklin died "with no sense of having been edged out in a race that only Watson and Crick knew was a race." When the Nobel Prize was handed out a few years after her death to Watson, Crick and Wilson for the discovery of DNA structure, Franklin was not included or even mentioned - because the Nobels are not awarded to the dead. Indeed, Franklin's critical role in the discovery of DNA structure only came to light when it was first acknowledged in Crick's 1968 autobiography The Double Helix.

    So take a moment tomorrow night to learn a little about a young female scientist who died never knowing she had done Nobel-prize calibre work or that she would be forever acknowledged as having a key role in the greatest scientific discovery of all time.
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Kinda pissed. Apparently my local PBS is not showing this. :(

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