Last week marked the anniversary of the birth of Rosalind Franklin, born 25th July 1920.


Franklin worked as a chemist and x-ray crystallographer, contributing to many groundbreaking developments and greatly enhancing scientific understanding. This post looks back at some of her findings and the impact they have had on the science industry today.


1. The Molecular Structures of DNA

Franklin provided several crucial developments towards the deduction of the structures of both DNA and RNA. At a lecture in 1951, with Watson in the audience, she presented two forms of the molecule- type A and type B. She also revealed that the phosphate constituents of DNA sit on the external surface of the molecule and contributed to our current understanding of the stability of DNA by specifying data on its water content. Another major development came from an x-ray image she took called photo 51, now known to shown B-DNA. These findings helped form the basis of the popularised DNA model produced by Watson and Crick and still accepted today.


2. The Molecular Structures of Viruses

Following her work on DNA at Kings College London, Franklin moved to Birkbeck college where she completed extensive work on the three-dimensional structure of the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and obtained diffraction images in a level of detail that had not been seen before. Her developments reveal the start of an entirely new field; structural studies of the relationship between nucleic acids, proteins and viruses.


Unfortunately Franklin died before the importance of her discoveries had been recognised. Her work has been praised posthumously with Franklin being awarded many prizes and memorials.