You can be forgiven if you’re not familiar with today’s Google Doodle of Rosalind Franklin. Though she did much of the important X-ray crystallography work that set the stage for James Watson and Francis Crick’s discover of the double-helix structure of DNA, Franklin still goes largely unacknowledged in many modern science texts. Today would have been Rosalind Franklin’s 93rd birthday, and Google is celebrating her tragically brief life and career with it’s highest honor — a Doodle.
It’s not exactly a Nobel Prize, but we’re down with pretty much any acknowledgement of Franklin’s important work, which was key to decoding the structure of DNA and to all of modern genetics. While awareness of Franklin’s work has improved over the years — thanks in no small part to Brenda Maddox’s excellent biography, The Dark Lady of DNA, which is a seriously great read that should be on any science reader’s bookshelf — the names of Watson and Crick still resound when discussing DNA. Franklin’s unpublished results suggesting a double helix structure — which Watson and Crick used without consulting her — remain largely a footnote in scientific history.
Just so we’re all clear, Franklin would not have been eligible for the Nobel for the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, which Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins shared in 1962. She passed away in 1958 from ovarian cancer at the age of 37, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously. But some more recognition than she’s gotten in the past is, frankly, only fair. After all, this is one of the really groundbreaking scientific discoveries in human history we’re talking about. Doesn’t scientific curiosity demand we try to learn the whole story behind it?
- DNA discovery is an anniversary worth celebrating
- Quad-helix DNA? Didn’t see that one coming.
- DNA has a lot of uses — like as a flame retardant!