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Rosalind Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958) was an English Scientist who made important contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. Franklin is still best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA. Her data, according to Francis Crick, were “the data we actually used” to formulate Crick and Watson's 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA.

Franklin played a major role in developing understanding of The Double Helix, which subsequently inspired several people to investigate DNA history and Franklin’s contribution. After finishing her portion of the DNA work, Franklin led pioneering work on the tobacco mosaic and polio viruses.

Unfortunately her life and career were cut short by cancer. In April 1958, at the age of 37, she died with a reputation around the world for her contributions to knowledge about the structure of carbon compounds and of viruses. After her death, Watson and Crick made abundantly clear in public lectures that they could not have discovered the structure of DNA without her work. However, because the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, Rosalind Franklin could not be cited for her essential role in the discovery of the physical basis of genetic heredity.

Last modified: Sunday, 19 February 2012, 4:29 PM