Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin 1920 - 1958

Photo 51
Reprinted by permission from Nature, Volume 171: 740-41,
©1953 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Rosalind Franklin Looking through the Microscope
Courtesy of the American Society for Microbiology Archive and Henry Grant/Mary Evans Picture Library.

Rosalind Franklin at the Table
Used with permission from the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

More than half a century ago, international scientists raced to discover the secret of life. At the forefront of this effort was a brilliant British researcher who brought her substantial gifts to the study of DNA. Her name was Rosalind Franklin.

Franklin was educated at a private school in London where she studied physics and chemistry from an early age, at an advanced level, especially so for a woman at that time. An excellent and dedicated student, she earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1945 from Cambridge University.

Early in her career, it was Rosalind Franklin who painstakingly conceived of and captured "Photograph 51" of the "B" form of DNA in 1952 while at King's College in London. It is this photograph, acquired through 100 hours of X-ray exposure from a machine Dr. Franklin herself refined, that revealed the structure of DNA.

The discovery of the structure of DNA was the single most important advance of modern biology. Quite simply, it changed the future of healthcare forever. James Watson and Francis Crick, working at Cambridge University, used Photograph 51 as the basis for their famous model of DNA that culminated in their Nobel Prize in 1962. 

Rosalind Franklin went on to perform exceptional research at Birkbeck College. She died in 1958 of ovarian cancer, at age 37, perhaps from radiation exposure from her work. One thing is certain -- she died without ever knowing the true magnitude of her contribution to the science of life.

Rosalind Franklin tirelessly blazed trails wherever she went. Her finely honed intelligence, devotion to the highest standards in research, thoughtful mentoring, unwavering loyalty to friends, and deep commitment to social justice mandated for Rosalind Franklin, a Life in Discovery.

We honor the enduring legacy of Rosalind Franklin, as well as our own powerful aspirations, by dedicating this University to her excellence. 

Life in Discovery