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In 1951, a young PhD student named Rosalind Franklin was working in the lab of John Randall at King’s College London. Franklin was an accomplished scientist with a background in physical chemistry, and she had been tasked with studying the structure of DNA, the molecule that carries genetic information.

Franklin was using a technique called X-ray crystallography to study the structure of DNA, which involved taking X-ray images of crystalized DNA samples. One of the images Franklin took, known as “Photo 51,” was particularly clear and detailed, and it showed the characteristic X-shaped pattern of a helix.

Franklin and her colleagues at King’s College worked tirelessly to analyze Photo 51 and other data they had collected, and they made significant progress in understanding the structure of DNA. However, Franklin’s relationship with her colleagues was strained, and she had a difficult time getting her work recognized by the scientific community.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick, two scientists working at Cambridge University, published a paper in the journal Nature describing the structure of DNA. They had not seen Franklin’s work, but they had heard about it through the scientific grapevine. Using Franklin’s data and their own calculations, Watson and Crick were able to propose a model of DNA that was supported by the evidence.

Franklin’s contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely overlooked at the time, but her work was crucial to the discovery. Watson and Crick acknowledged Franklin’s contributions in their paper, but they did not give her proper credit or include her as a co-author.

In 1962, Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, another scientist who had worked on the structure of DNA, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on the structure of DNA. Franklin had died of cancer in 1958, and she was not eligible to receive the prize.

Today, Franklin is recognized as a pioneering scientist whose work was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Her legacy lives on through the Rosalind Franklin Society, an organization dedicated to promoting the contributions of women in science. Photo 51 is now considered one of the most important scientific images ever taken, and it is a testament to Franklin’s enduring legacy as a brilliant scientist and pioneer in the field of molecular biology.