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Rocks and Minerals
structure of earth app
Structure of earth
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Simple Machines
magnets app
adaptations in animals app
Animal Adaptations
adaptations in plants app
Plant Adaptations
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Solar System

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Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)


Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born on the 25th of July 1920 in London to a wealthy merchant banker Ellis Franklin and his wife Muriel.

She was the second in a family on five and she was a bright student in school, getting great grades in science, Latin, and even being excellent at sports.

She studied chemistry at university and did much research with many academics afterwards.

During this time, she was introduced to Jacques Mering who was a crystallographer.

Crystallographers are scientists who study the arrangement of atoms within a crystal. They use the beams of X-rays to strike a crystal and then observe how it spreads across it.

From the different angles that the light spreads and reflects crystallographers are able to determine a 3-D picture of how solid the electrons of the crystal are.

Mering taught Franklin how to use crystallography to study various elements and substances, and she applied her new knowledge to studying coal (which she had started studying earlier).

When she later joined a medical research team, the director of the team John Randall asked her to study DNA fibres (the same things that Watson and Crick had studied).

In this lab, she started applying the crystallography techniques that she had learned with Mering to the DNA fibres.

During these experiments, Franklin and her assistant Gosling discovered that there were actually two forms of DNA.

When the DNA strand was wet it became long and then, and when it dried up it became short and fat. The long thing one was called “DNA-B” and the fat short one “DNA-A’.

Franklin and Gosling were especially concerned with the A-DNA strand and continued to study it over the next few years.

Watson and Crick’s work was on DNA was focused on the B model and their research team used to work together quite often, exchanging valuable information with Franklin and Gosling and their director Randall.

Franklin later turned her attention to RNA (Ribonucleic acid) which is as important to us as DNA.

The difference is that RNA is packed with information on viruses, including a special type of virus called the TMV (tobacco mosaic virus).

Franklin and her new research team built a model of the RNA, which showed all the important aspects of it.

Her team was working on how the RNA viruses affect plants like potato, turnip, tomato and pea.

At the height of her career, Franklin encountered a health complication where two cancerous tumours were removed from her stomach. She was in hospital for a long time.

They had also started working on the polio virus when in 1957, at the age of 37 Franklin was admitted yet again to hospital.

Almost a year later, on the 16th of April 1958 Rosalind Franklin lost her battle to cancer and passed away. She was only 38 years old.

Many believe that the cause of her cancer was the high exposure to the radiation from the crystallography X-ray machines, but no one knows for certain.

Franklin never married because she believed she had to sacrifice the family life if she was to become a dedicated scientist.

Her work in DNA, RNA and other viruses laid the foundation for many other scientists, including Crick and Watson to influence this world with groundbreaking discoveries.