Friday, December 3, 2010

Rosalind Franklin - Dark Lady of DNA


Here's the link to the NOVA program telling the story of Rosalind Franklin's key contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Secret of Photo 51. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize for the structure of DNA in 1962. Rosalind Franklin died prematurely in 1958, should she have received the Nobel Prize along with Watson, Crick and Wilkins?

25 comments:

per3Abby said...

The articles on the website were very interesting. I'd previously thought based on other stuff I'd read that Rosalind Franklin was just the person who created the xray image that Watson and Crick used for their discovery of the structure of DNA. I was impressed to learn how much of the structure she'd actually come up with on her own already, and also that her ideas helped Watson and Crick when they ran into trouble with their ideas. Based on this, it does seem to me that she was definitely a very important collaborator in the discovery. I think that she should have shared in the Nobel Prize. However, the article really made clear to me how collaborative scientific research is, even when it isn't intended to be, because ideas relate to and influence one another so much that it's hard to tell where one person's work would have gone without the work of others.

per3ingrid said...

It seems that Franklin definitely should have shared the nobel prize. The interview made it seem like she was the collaborator who did a lot of the concrete work, whereas Watson and Crick relied much more on intuition and did not run test as thorough as Franklin's. I agree with Abby that the collaborative nature of research like Franklin, Watson, and Crick's makes it hard to distinguish where one person's work stops and another's work starts. However, it seems clear that Franklin deserved more credit than she ended up getting.

Eliana Rosenthal said...

I thought these articles were very interesting because they showed more of the social aspects of this discovery than I had envisioned. I liked that Franklin seemed to be the one during most of the testing/experimenting because she did this during a time when there were not a lot of female scientists. I do think she should have at least been rewarded for her works because it seems to me that Crick and Watson would not have been able to come to the conclusions that they did without her efforts. Having said that, I liked that this discovery came together with work from more than just one person, it made it more real to me.

per3brisa said...

I also think that Franklin should have shared the Nobel Prize with Watson and Crick, because as the articles pointed out, whenever Watson and Crick found flaw with their models, they reverted back to Franklin's research for clarification. At the same time, Franklin's developments in biology came from the foundation of discoveries made by people like Avery and Chargaff before her, which just goes to show, as mentioned before, how scientific research progresses by building off of knowledge that is already available.

per3Dryden said...

The X-ray diffraction photo was VERY cool. I was surprised so much information could be interpreted from such a primitive-looking photo. It was inspiring to see so many scientists collaborate together and I especially liked how the article elaborated on the limited knowledge that everyone had on the structure of DNA at the time; feeling their way through trial and error, which I believe is the essence of science. I feel that Watson, Crick, and Wilkins' discovery would not have been possible without Franklin's contribution. However, it is undeniable that any discovery is made possible by contributions. I feel that sometimes it is difficult to see which one of the collaborators had the "ah-ha!" moment. Every discovery is held within an individual, and the collaborators help that individual. While corrections and collaboration on the way help the researcher, (such as finding that base-pairs don't lie on the outside of the structure) I feel that one of the Watson-Crick-Wilkins team WERE the ones who made the discovery. It is true that their discovery was not possible without Franklin's contribution and it is also likely that Franklin would have discovered the structure had she lived. However, for whatever reason, that did not happen. What is important about Franklin's photo is that it allowed the discovery to occur, regardless of how close SHE may have come to that discovery HAD she lived. Franklin's contribution to the discovery, although she did not make the discovery herself, is enough to give her the Nobel Prize. She deserves credit after exposing herself to countless X-rays to produce a single picture that could have enabled almost any talented researcher to make an educated conclusion on the structure of DNA.

per2COLLINLESKOOOOOO said...

She should have definitely gotten the Nobel prize along with Watson and Crick because she was basically one step away from figuring out the whole structure of DNA. Had she just kept her research away from Watson and Crick and lived to find out the structure of the B-side of DNA she would have had everything figured out. The X pattern, given away by her boss, was the major find that would have made her get the Nobel prize all by herself because of how much it reveals.

per3mark said...

I think that it remains dubious as to whether Franklin should have won the prize as well. Although, as Ingrid mentioned, she "did most of the concrete work," it seems as if she took a backseat in the actual innovation in terms of figuring out the structure of DNA. In the interview, the biographer says that although she was "circling around base-pairs," the actual breakthrough in that was made by Watson. In a side note, the same article says that "Franklin's notebooks reveal that she was intimately familiar with the work of others who had made key discoveries along the road to Watson and Crick's breakthrough," but that does not mean that she was the one making the discoveries. Later, the biographer describes the sort of "race" to the finish that her and Crick/Watson were participating in in publishing. It seems from this that although Franklin might have figured the structure out as well, she was edged out by them even if they might not have been quite as sure - but that is the nature of taking risks, and in this situation they won out.

In addition, one must consider the objectivity of the biographer NOVA interviewed. Her work is dedicated to making Franklin an engaging and interesting figure, and seems to be based on this controversy. If Franklin is discredited, the biographer stands to lose a lot of interesting information on her subject - who, granted, seems like quite the young scientific genius, but who would lose a lot of her interest if not associated with such a momentous project.

per2mark said...

whoops i meant per2mark

per.3Aaron said...

I also agree that Rosalind Franklin should have shared the Nobel Prize because she came up with the concept of the double helix. In addition, she came up with the location of the hydrophilic and the hydrophobic groups. Without this information, Watson and Crick wouldn't have made the discovery. This story gives me two impressions. On one hand, I was really impressed with the dedication and the passion these scientist share. On the other hand, I realized that research could be collaborative and competitive at the same time. Overall, I think that Rosalind Franklin deserved more credit than she received.

per3alyssa said...

After reading NOVA's interview of Dr. Lynne Osman Elkin, I truly think that Rosalind Franklin should have been awarded the Nobel Prize along with Watson, Crick, and Wilkins. Although she never publicly released her work, it aided and guided Watson, Crick, and Wilkins in their important discoveries of the double helix (as Brisa pointed out). It was actually the key piece of evidence leading to the discovery that won them the Nobel Prize. Several argue that she would have received the Nobel Prize had she not passed away, and I don't think death should limit recognition of remarkable brilliance.

The picture itself is incredibly fascinating, a result of Franklin's use and extensive knowledge of her own X-ray diffraction technique. As one of the captions states, this picture was what led to Watson's "eureka moment," further proving that Franklin's achievement was no small feat. Upon further interpretation of the photo, experts were able to affirm the double-helix idea by taking a look at the X shape, diamonds, and smears.

It's also seems suspicious that Watson, Crick and Williams took Photo 51 without permission and didn't give her any credit for it when they received the prize. As Aaron mentioned, although people may argue about whether or not she should have been awarded, there is no doubt that she should have received more credit than was given.

Franklin's incredibly advanced technique of X-ray diffraction to obtain a pivotal source of evidence should certainly not have been neglected in the awarding of the Nobel Prize. It is evident that her discoveries provided a revolutionary glance into the structure of DNA not only for the Nobel Laureates but also for a great number scientists of the era.

per3frehiwot said...

I also believe that Rosalind should have received credit along with Watson and Crick. The interview made it clear she was an important contributer to the discovery.Her work showed that she had all the research and information but she needed to connect the dots and was close to doing so. By using her notes,Watson and Crick were able to make progress when trying to finalize their model for the structure of DNA. Photo 51 was really interesting, I couldn’t imagine just by looking at that photo all that information could be interpreted and calculated from it. Franklin’s work creating this image and all her research convinces me that she should have received more recognition. By using Franklin’s photo Watson and Creek were able to put together the final model for DNA but without her contributions, they were less likely to have success. This particular event in science goes to show how much collaboration goes into making these discoveries and how it can be difficult to distinguish whose contributions are more significant than whose.

per3sarah said...

While I think Franklin's work was obviously groundbreaking, I don't think she should've been awarded the Nobel prize.

First of all, since the institution as a rule doesn't give out posthumous nominations, then she shouldn't have been the exception. If she had been, the institution would have lost some credibility. They'd then have to deal with every other scientist who contributed to a major discovery but died before it was finalized. It would also have put into serious question at what point individuals are so involved in the process of finding answers that they deserve recognition.

It's regrettable that Franklin didn't publish her work, or keep it out of the hands of Watson and Crick, but the fact is that they DID get access to Photo 51 and used it to form their hypotheses. Science is a collaborative field, and new research is always based on the previous work of others.

Obviously Franklin's contributions shouldn't be ignored, and Watson/Crick should acknowledge that most of their work was thanks to her... but the Nobel prize was awarded for the conclusions that THEY reached.

So, I'd have to say that I think Franklin deserves major recognition for her work (like calling it the Watson-Crick-Franklin Structure, etc), but I don't think she should have gotten the Nobel award.

per2natasha said...

I think that she should have gotten the Nobel Prize based on what Elkin (?) said. I know that that is just an opinion and that there could be other stuff out there but her thing convinced me. I think that she should get more recognized at least becasue this is the first time I've ever heard of her. I think that it was unfair that Watson and Crick used her information to help them get unstuck but then they didn't give her credit. That's kind of sad. Also when Elkin said that she thought being really careful with your thoughts and information was an asset I kind of agree wiht that because if you make a wild claim but you don't have enough evidence to support it I feel like people will stop believing you

per3raizel said...

I think that Franklin should have gotten the Nobel Prize if she had not died, but that the award should not be given to her posthumously. The work she did on DNA, the picture she took, and the fact that she was so close to figuring out the structure of DNA all seem to indicate that she is indeed worthy of a Nobel Prize. Yet even if she is worthy, I don't think that the precedent of not giving out awards after a scientist's death should be changed (it simply opens up too many possibilities). It seems like Franklin certainly deserves far more recognition for her work than she gets though, and I agree that the model should be called the Watson-Crick-Franklin Structure. It is clear that Watson and Crick would not have made their discovery without her help, as her information consistently provided them with critical pieces of the puzzle. Franklin's work definitely deserves more recognition, but not in the way of a Nobel Prize.

per2sarah said...

I believe that Rosalind Franklin definitely deserved some credit for her discoveries about DNA. Without her and her findings, Watson, Crick and Wilkins wouldn't have been able to receive the nobel prize. Watson and crick only figured out their structure after finding her data. If she had published her March 17th draft before they had discovered their structure, then she would have had to be given credit for leading them to their idea. Watson even believed that she deserved the award. Her discoveries were very important to the findings of Watson, Crick, and Wilkins and for this reason, she should be awarded form credit.

per2chrislee said...

Although Franklin did the most substantial work leading up to the discovery of the DNA structure, her good habit of not publishing her work without sufficient evidence eventually worked against her. Because of this, the nobel prize was not awarded to her and I believe that although the nobel prize gives indication to a larger crowd of an individual's achievements, those within the field of biology and more specifically genetics will know who Rosalind Franklin is and her exceeding significance to the two men who were credited with discovering the structure of DNA. The reason that I believe Rosalind Franklin should not have been awarded the Nobel Prize goes along with the bitter reality of the kinds of people that have been awarded this "famous" award in the past. Franklin was simply not proactive enough in crediting herself to get the award. As said in article "Before Watson and Crick," science is a field where "many grab for glory" whether it be rightfully given or not. Hence, this explains how Watson and Crick's under supported yet thoroughly publicized intuitive theory gained the worldwide recognition that Franklin would have gotten had she not been so hesitant. Many of the responses to these articles mention that Franklin should have gotten the Nobel Prize because of her "collaborative" efforts in conjunction with Watson and Crick. This seems not the case to me. It seems that Franklin, rather than being "collaborative," had her research taken from her without knowing so. Her work would later be used to support the guesswork of Watson and Crick. Franklin was indeed brilliant, there is no doubt about that. Yet she lacked the greed that most scientists gush with to gain proper recognition for the groundbreaking work that was taken from her by the curious Watson and Crick duo.

per3JohnnyMatejczyk said...

I agree with the many people who said that the Franklin should not be given the nobel prize posthumously because this is clearly against the custom. I also think that the nova interviewer and the interviewee were showed a bias in favor of Franklin, therefor I think it is challenging to make an argument without further reading. However, I think that if Franklin was alive today that she should have and would have received the nobel prize. She obviously contributed more than Wilkins did, who's only contribution was showing Watson and Crick Franklin's discoveries. I also think that if Franklin had been more aggressive with the publication of her essays she would have received more acknowledgement than she has now. Also, I'm not so sure that Franklin got shorthanded. I hear about Franklin the more often than I do Watson or Crick when talking about the discovery of DNA. For example, when I was learning about DNA in middle school all I learned about was Franklin, if anything Watson and Crick were the ones who were shorthanded.

Period 2 Taylor said...

I think that Rosalind Franklin definantly should have shared the nobel prize with Watson and Crick. All of her research, discoveries and hard work allowed Watson and Crick to use it as a basis and a reference for their own. Franklin was fairly close to figuring out the whole thing, seeing that she had much of the structure already figured out. I was surprised at how much collaboration goes into scientific research like this, making it hard to identify who exactly came to the final conclusion. Despite this, I believe she should have gotten more credit than she did.

per3katrina said...

There is no question as to whether or not Franklin's contribution to the study of DNA was significant. As almost everyone has already said, her findings became the indisputably crucial foundation for later research. Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA was made possible by Franklin's ideas, but then at the same time, Franklin's ideas also went off of those of other scientists. In general, the progression of science is made possible by the interconnectedness of ideas and research, its difficult to FULLY attribute a notion to just one person. That being said, Franklin's progress was definitely significant, and she should have received more recognition than she did, just not in the form of the Nobel Prize. Awarding the prize posthumously would unnecessarily go against the very tradition of the institution. As some people have already said, if her name was included in the structure (Watson-Crick-Franklin Structure?), she could be receiving greater acknowledgement, without anyone having to go against established rules pertaining to the awarding of the Nobel Prize.

per2Julia said...

The NOVA interview not only emphasized the great research of Franklin, but also showed something about what kind of person she was. The fact that her research and observations were very close to concluding the structure of DNA, yet none of it was published because it wasn't completely conclusive, shows her precision. The article emphasizes that Watson and Crick's model was a guess. It was, however, their pro-action in publishing their work that won them the credit. I think Franklin's not finalizing her idea about the structure of DNA can be solely attributed to her short life. Based on the milestones that Franklin's research overcame especially for Watson and Crick, it can be assumed that she would have been an even greater attributer to the final conclusions of the structure. This, however, was not the case. Although I do believe Franklin should have been attributed more credit to her work and contributions, it was Watson and Crick who put all the research together. This gives them full rights in claiming the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

per2xeno said...

a Popular theme in my life, as of junior year has been "everything happens for a reason." Freud once said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", in response to some students extrapolating meaning from the phallic Freudian cigar. He died of mouth cancer. My first topic for term papers was Should the north have attacked the south, should they have had the right to secede, which got shot down, as a question of should, rather than did. Franklin did not make the breakthroughs that gave us DNA, She paved the way for them. Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission, but could not get published because she was in hiding in Switzerland. Her German partner, Hahn, got the nobel prize because he published it. Meitner lived after the war, there was irrefutable evidence that it was her discovery, any yet she never got the prize. Sadly, Franklin died before making that almighty leap of data to discovery, and will never be compensated for that.

per2Alec said...

I believe that Rosalind Franklin should have received the Nobel Peace Prize with Crick and Watson. How it was portrayed was that Franklin pretty much did the experiments and the other two just interpreted the results. Also, the fact that she died in in the process of her research because of the X-Rays means she probably should have at least gotten an honorable mention. From the analysis of photo 51 it seems clear that she was key in the eventual construction of a DNA model.

per2_Talia said...

Although I do not believe Franklin should have won the Nobel Prize, she definitely deserves major credit for her work. Franklin accomplished the majority of the work needed for Watson and Crick to come to a conclusion, however her life was cut short before she could come to a conclusion on her own. Although it is unfair, Franklin did not fully complete a discovery, and so she does not in my eyes deserve a posthumous Novel Prize award. That being said, she did do most of the work necessary so I think she deserves some sort of award or large recognition.

per3Dorothy said...

I also believe that Rosalind Franklin deserved to share the Nobel Prize. Her discoveries regarding DNA lead to the deciphering of the structure of the complex molecule. I believe that she should have shared the award with Watson and Crick because her findings were proven to be essential to their discoveries. I thought it was very interesting that even "Watson begrudgingly [said] [Franklin] should have gotten [the Nobel Prize]." Her information guided them to their winning of the Nobel Prize and because her work was a basis of their discovery, I believe it would be rightful for her to receive credit as a main contributer.

Hoffy said...

Franklin, In my opinion, worked really hard. My prior expectations of what she did were...understatements. I was shocked to know what an impact she had on the structure of DNA. Yes, Watson and Crick did make the discovery, but they hit plenty of roadblocks they couldn't have bypassed without Rosalind. It goes without saying that Franklin was tossed to the curb. Why?