Exactly seventy years ago, the same piece of news became one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time and, in turn, one of the most biggest scandals in the history of science. He April 25, 1953biologists James Watson and Francis Crick announced to the world that they had finally cracked the structure of DNA: the puzzle through which our genes are capable of transmitting information from father to son and finally they end up shaping who we are. The dark side of this story is that this scientific discovery, which in 1962 was awarded the medicine nobelonly it was possible thanks to a photograph stolen from the drawer of the scientist rosalinda franklin.
The discovery of a letter and an article that demonstrates the role of this scientist in the discovery of the double helix of DNA
Who then are the true masterminds of this discovery? Could Watson and Crick have deciphered the DNA structure without the photograph of Rosalind Franklin? What was the actual role of this British scientist in this exceptional find? For decades these questions have been at the center of a heated debate in the scientific community.
For years there were those who argued that Franklin was more of a ‘collateral victim’ of this discovery since he was not able to understand the importance of that photograph that he kept in his drawer. Now, after seventy years of discussions, the magazine ‘Nature’ echoes the discovery of two unpublished documents What could they solve? one of the biggest messes in the history of science.
«Frankin was one half of the team that articulated the scientific question and took important steps toward a solution»
cobb and comfort
An analysis of the Franklin documentary archive at Churchill College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, has revealed two key pieces in this debate. It is a letter and a newspaper article written in 1953 showing that Franklin was fully aware of the significance of his work and therefore also contributed equally to solving the puzzle of the DNA double helix.
«Frankin was one half of the team that articulated the scientific question.took important steps towards a solution, obtained crucial data and verified the result», conclude Matthew Cobb and Nathaniel Comfort, the two researchers who have led the analysis of these documents.
One of Franklin’s great contributions to this discovery was the famous photograph 51. This image was Captured by the British scientist in 1952 using an X-ray diffraction technique capable of providing detailed information on the structure and arrangement of atoms in molecules. The result was one of the clearest tests to date to understand, on the one hand, what shape DNA had and, on the other, how its structure allowed genetic information to be stored and transmitted from generation to generation.
«Photography 51 was the true philosopher’s stone of molecular biology and the key to solving the ‘secret of life'», argue Cobb and Comfort in the article published this Tuesday. «Watson’s argument [para desacreditar a Frankin] part of the absurd premise that such a brilliant scientist how she was unable to understand their own data«, they add.
«Photograph 51 was the true philosopher’s stone of molecular biology and the key to solving the ‘secret of life'»
There is no longer any doubt that Franklin was instrumental in discovering the DNA double helix. His experimental work was, together with Maurice Wilkins, essential for Watson and Crick to connect the dots and understand what exactly the structure of our genome was like. Getting a glimpse of the shape of DNA was visionary, but as with all great scientific discoveries in history, the brightest ideas never come from a single mind, they come from one mind. take shape from work and discussions that take place in the scientific community. Hence, it is said that «science is built on the shoulders of giants».
The case of Rosalind Franklin is known as one of the biggest injustices of history of science since, for decades, your name has been omitted or underestimated of the story about this scientific discovery. Seventy years after the news broke, Cobb and Comfort stress the importance of «rescuing your story.» «She faced not only the routine sexism of the timebut also to more subtle forms of discrimination that are embedded in science and that, in some cases, are still present today,» they point out.