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July 25

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.

Rosalind Franklin Won't Stay Erased



QUOTE by Linda Werthheimer.

Franklin Shares Name of British Building With Man Who Stole Her Work to Win the Nobel Prize

franklinrosalind.gifRosalind Franklin is another woman scientist they tried to erase from HIStory, but it hasn't worked. The good old boy network has shown signs of cracking - a little.
      Born 07-25-1920, RF was a British biophysicist who through the use of X-ray diffraction provided the basic scientific evidence of two important facts concerning the structure of the nucleic acid DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): 1.) that the phosphate groups lie on the outside of the molecule and 2.) that the DNA chain has a helical conformation.
      One of the ways she provided basic evidence as a photograph - an actual x-ray photograph that showed the helix. The fate of that photograph is the center of the controversy.

In 1962 Maurice Wilkins, James Watson, and Francis Crick, received the Nobel prize for their discovery of the DNA double helix. They conveniently left out any mention of Rosalind Franklin, whose vital work (above) on the double helix theory was "stolen" (see Watson's quote below) by Maurice Wilkins to share with the others. The photograph admittedly rocketed their thinking into the DNA double helix.
      Franklin's photograph number 51 that showed the basics of the helix was taken from her lab drawer by Wilkins, who was technically her "boss" at King's College London, and then, WITHOUT HER PERMISSION shared it with Watson and Crick at Cambridge university.

Wilkins considered Franklin part of his staff although they were equals. He treated Franklin with such disdain and did everything he could to force her to leave King's. He also tried to shut her out of her own work.
      Some feel that Franklin's quick death at 37 (d. 04-16-1958) from cancer was probably exacerbated by the high-handed patriarchial robbery of her material. Most of her scientific career dealt with x-rays.
      Franklin died four years before the awarding of the Nobel to the trio. ///Ann Sayre's biography Rosalind Franklin and DNA (1978) examined Franklin's contributions in detail, probably as a rebuttal of the very prejudicial Watson's book The Double Helix. Watson's book, by the way, was rejected by Harvard Press even after revisions. It was initially privately printed. Sayre was a personal friend of Franklin.
      Franklin also did pioneering work with tobacco mosaic virus and X-ray diffraction studies of carbon structure.
      One prestigious British scientific publication called the ignoring of Franklin by Watson-Wilkins-Crick as "not cricket" and "very disappointing."

When she was at King's College in 1952-3, women weren't allowed in the common room with the men and she was effectively isolated in her work and subject to strong anti-woman sentiments. Wilkins felt he had the right to take freely from her work in the prevailing male prerogative mentality in which women's work was merely to serve men.
      Wilkins also went to Watson and Crick at Oxford to complain about her "harpy" attitude. Watson later wrote that she wasn't a bad looking woman if she'd take off her glasses and do something with her hair.
      One fact that is hardly ever mentioned is that Franklin was Jewish and the anti-Semitic feelings in British scientific circles was very high at the time.

Franklin's memory was honored in the spring of 2000 with the opening of the Franklin-Wilkins Hall at King's College - and one wonders if she'd be very pleased at being coupled with a man she argued with and had strong reasons to hate.
      The full story including Watson's telling admission is below:

The Timeline of Thievery

Very early in 1953 on one of his visits to Watson and Crick, Wilkins showed them Franklin's "Photograph 51" that he had taken from her files without her knowledge or permission.. It showed the B-form of DNA together with her precise calculations on the molecule's dimensions.
      Crick and Watson then BUILT a model of the DNA without the Wilkins' knowledge.
      Wilkins, in a very revealing note to Crick on March 7, 1953, wrote:
"I think you will be interested to know that our dark lady (Franklin) leaves us next week... at last the decks are clear and we can put all hands to the pumps! It won't be long now. M."
      However, Wilkins who had betrayed Franklin was now betrayed by Crick and Watson who QUICKLY sent their announcement letter on the discovery of the DNA helix to a scientific journal - without mentioning him (or Franklin).
      In a breach of confidence of some sort, the announcement letter was leaked to Wilkins who had a chance to get in his claim - still leaving out Franklin.
      A beyond-reproach-prestigious scientist who has reviewed Franklin's DNA lab books from March 1953 states that she was quite close to solving the DNA structure - actually having taken photographs of its internal structure.

Watson recently made the following obfuscatory statement recently at Harvard:
"There's a myth which is that, you know, that Francis (Crick) and I basically stole the structure from the people at King's. I was shown Rosalind Franklin's X-ray photograph and 'Whooo! That was a helix!', and a month later, we had the structure; and [that] Wilkins should never have shown me the thing. I didn't go into the drawer and steal it. It was shown to me, and I was told the dimensions, a repeat of 34 angstroms, so, you know, I knew roughly what it meant and it was that the Franklin photograph was the key event... psychologically, it mobilized us back into action.
      "The truth is that we should have got the structure in the fall of '51 (rather than 53). There was enough data. We wouldn't have been able to say with finality that it was right because, uh, that came with Rosalind's X-ray work, that was the proof it was right... first slide. Oh, there..."
      And at that point, Franklin's Photograph 51 went up on the screen. Indeed, what else could anyone say?

Brenda Maddox is writing a new biography of Rosalind Franklin in which the above quote from Watson is used.
      In her book she notes that American neuroscientist, Candace Pert, blamed anti-female prejudice when she was passed over for an award she felt she deserved. It was just what had happened to Franklin, she argued. In her 1997 book, Molecules of Emotion.

When Rosalyn Yalow received the 1977 Nobel prize for her work in developing the MRI system, she gave full credit to her longtime collaborator Dr. Berson who had died in the early 1970s. She fully acknowledged his work and said so in her speech at the presentation. No Nobel is given posthumously.

Also see the 07-15 WOAH for another thievery of the Nobel by a "supervisor."

The winner of a Nobel gets a great deal of money, $1million in 2000, and according amounts in the past. In the scientific fields, especially, a Nobel laureate has his/her choice of work, placement, and constant adulation.

A little-known regulation of the Nobel commission states that a maximum of THREE may share in a prize. Some have claimed that the delay in awarding the prize was the wait for Franklin to die since her cervical cancer was considered fatal in those times regardless of treatment.

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In Mattel's promotional literature for 2000, The Barbie doll line is one of the most successful in history, with sales of more than $1.5 billion in 1999. The average American girl between the ages of 3 and 11 owns ten Barbie dolls and the doll is currently sold in more than 150 countries around the world.
      There are more than three times the number of Barbies in existence than humans on the face of the earth.

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B. 07-25-1401, Jacoba or Jacqueline of Hainaut, rightful heir of Holland, Zeeland, and Hainaut. However, but she was opposed by the Pope as well the German King Siegmund who all backed her MALE uncle.
      After years of intrigue, she lost.

B. 07-25-1806, Maria Weston Chapman - U.S. abolitionist. MWC was a leader in the anti-slavery movement who organized a number of effective anti-slavery associations.
      She helped edited many of William Lloyd Garrison's newspapers and other abolitionist publications, as well as being a writer in the movement.
      In fact, her writings advanced the cause and fame of a number of prominent abolitionists. A mob once burned down a hall to prevent her from speaking.

B. 07-25-1871, Dr. Margaret Floy Washburn - U.S. psychologist. MFW developed the dualistic motor theory of mental activity. As the professor of psychology, she made Vassar an important center for the training of psychologists.
      MFW was the second woman to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She was president of the American Psychological Association.

B. 07-25-1873, Anne Tracy Morgan - the fabulously wealthy daughter of American tycoon J. Pierpont Morgan who under the tutelage of Elisabeth Marbury became active in helping working women, was a suffrage leader, and women's rights official.
      She was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palms in 1917 and became the first woman to be named Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1932.
      Her relief work in France during WWI ranged from direct medical care to setting up barracks for the homeless to providing aid to resume farming to creating medical dispensaries and aiding children. In World War II she personally led the French Relief program.
      ATM chaired the American Woman's Association and raised the 3.5 million for their building; she was the AWA president 1928-43.
      She was active in the 1909 women's needle strike in New York in which wealthy women not only walked the picket lines but also provided money and supplies to aid the strikers and provide bail when they were arrested.
      [Ed. note: Some herstorians today claim that she was, in retrospect, anti-Semitic - actually a charge that can be made against almost everyone in an era when blacks, white, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and almost everyone else was openly bigoted towards all the others by today's standards. Actually, as narrow-minded as many Americans are today, this is still the most liberal era in the history of this nation - or perhaps the world. In this respect, yes, we've come a long way.]

B. 07-25-1905, Margaret Zattau Roan - U.S. author, musician, and psychologist. MZR organized the first urban, community-owned food cannery in U.S.

B. 07-25-1923, Estelle Getty - veteran Broadway and TV actor. EG, a fixture on Broadway, is best known for her portrayal of Sophia Petrillo in the long running TV show The Golden Girls.

B. 07-25-1955, Iman Abdyknahud, known as Iman, is the Somali-born U.S. model actor, and political activist who commanded two million dollars a year while modeling. She formed the Iman Cosmetics and Skincare collection for women of color with a portion of the profits being donated to the Children's Defense Fund. Her mother was a gynecologist.

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"Going to a women's college made a big difference. It gave me the sense women could run things... and I just never thought that it made sense to give that up."
            -- Linda Wertheimer who has acted as producer and host of NPR's All Things Considered.

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