26 September, 2020

Director's Cut

20th century's greatest discovery also hides a nasty "male conspiracy"

Director's Cut
What is the most famous breakthrough in modern science that has had the greatest impact on the human condition? It’s the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA by Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick and James Watson for which they were awarded the Nobel in 1962. But there was a fourth, a woman called Rosalind Franklin, whose contribution was no less but didn’t get her due probably because of the institutionalised sexism rampant till late last century. Brenda Maddox has set "the tangled record straight" in a biting biography in Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA.

It’s the story of the race to find out DNA’s structure against the background of the dramatis personae and the scientific institutions involved—King’s College, London, and Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where the fundamental research was done. By the mid 1930s, it had been established that genes were physical entities; by the early 1950s, it was known that the chemical material of the gene was DNA. Watson and Crick, along with Wilkins, and greatly assisted by Franklin’s X-ray diffraction...



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