Today, Google is using their homepage real estate to honor British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin with a Doodle. Franklin’s studies on DNA, RNA, and viruses helped later scientists (most notably Watson and Crick) better understand the structure of these basic molecular structures.
Franklin was born into a wealthy family in Notting Hill, London in 1920. She excelled in science from and early age, and when she was 18 began to study chemistry at Newnham College, Cambridge. Franklin worked in a series of labs and also as a research officer at the British Coal Utilization Research Association. In 1951, Franklin began work at King’s College in London at the MRC’s Biophysics unit.
Franklin’s DNA modeling was used by Watson and Crick when they built their DNA model in 1953, but her contributions often go overlooked. In fact, the first real mention of Franklin’s impact on those DNA studies didn’t come until 25 years after the fact.
For this, she was never even nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Franklin died in 1958 of ovarian cancer, among other complications. It’s thought that her early development of such cancer (in her 30s) can be explained by her exposure to X-ray radiation, but it’s known that her family had a history of cancer as well.
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would be her 93rd birthday.
The Doodle shows Franklin looking at a double helix structure, as well as an X-ray diffraction image on DNA taken under her direction known as Photo 51.