1920 – Rosalind Franklin, English biophysicist, chemist, and academic is born.
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite. Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognised posthumously.
Born to a prominent British Jewish family, Franklin was educated at a private day school at Norland Place in West London, Lindores School for Young Ladies in Sussex, and St Paul’s Girls’ School, London. Then she studied the Natural Sciences Tripos at Newnham College, Cambridge, from which she graduated in 1941. Earning a research fellowship, she joined the University of Cambridge physical chemistry laboratory under Ronald George Wreyford Norrish, who disappointed her for his lack of enthusiasm. Fortunately, the British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA) offered her a research position in 1942, and started her work on coals. This helped her earn a Ph.D. in 1945. She went to Paris in 1947 as a chercheur (post-doctoral researcher) under Jacques Mering at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat, where she became an accomplished X-ray crystallographer. She became a research associate at King’s College London in 1951 and worked on X-ray diffraction studies, which would eventually facilitate the double helix theory of the DNA. In 1953, after two years, owing to disagreement with her director John Randall and more so with her colleague Maurice Wilkins, she was compelled to move to Birkbeck College. At Birkbeck, J. D. Bernal, chair of the physics department, offered her a separate research team. She died in 1958 at the age of 37 of ovarian cancer.
Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, particularly Photo 51, while at King’s College, London, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Watson suggested that Franklin would have ideally been awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Wilkins, but the Nobel Committee does not make posthumous nominations.
After finishing her work on DNA, Franklin led pioneering work at Birkbeck on the molecular structures of viruses. Her team member Aaron Klug continued her research, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982.
1956 – Frances Arnold, American scientist and engineer is born.
Frances Hamilton Arnold is an American scientist and engineer. She pioneered methods of directed evolution to create useful biological systems, including enzymes, metabolic pathways, genetic regulatory circuits, and organisms. She is the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where she studies evolution and its applications in science, medicine, chemicals and energy. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 1979 and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. There, she did her postdoctoral work in biophysical chemistry before coming to Caltech in 1986.
Her work has been recognized by many awards, including the 2011 Draper Prize and a 2013 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Arnold has the rare honor of being elected to all three National Academies in the United States – The National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Arnold is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
A member of the Advisory Board of the DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering, Arnold also serves on the President’s Advisory Council of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She is currently serving as a judge for The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
Arnold’s Caltech research is in green chemistry and alternative energy, including the development of highly active enzymes (cellulolytic and biosynthetic enzymes) and microorganisms to convert renewable biomass to fuels and chemicals. She is co-inventor on numerous patents and co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005.
In 2016 she became the first woman to win the Millennium Technology Prize, which she won for pioneering directed evolution. In 2017, Arnold was awarded the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Convergence Research by the National Academy of Sciences, which recognizes extraordinary contributions to convergence research.
1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signaling a major change in folk and rock music.
By 1965, Bob Dylan had achieved the status of leading songwriter of the American folk music revival. The response to his albums The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and The Times They Are a-Changin’ led to him being labelled as the “spokesman of a generation” by the media. In March 1965, Dylan released his fifth album, Bringing It All Back Home. Side One featured Dylan backed by an electric band. Side Two featured Dylan accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. On July 20, 1965, Dylan released his single, “Like a Rolling Stone”, featuring a rock sound. On July 25, 1965, Dylan performed his first electric concert at the Newport Folk Festival, joined by guitar legend Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg of The Electric Flag. Some sections of the audience booed Dylan’s performance. Leading members of the folk movement, including Irwin Silber and Ewan MacColl criticized Dylan for moving away from political songwriting, and performing with an electric band.
1976 – Viking program: Viking 1 takes the famous Face on Mars photo.
Cydonia was first imaged in detail by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 orbiters. Eighteen images of the Cydonia region were taken by the orbiters, of which seven have resolutions better than 250 m/pixel (820 ft/pixel). The other eleven images have resolutions that are worse than 550 m/pixel (1800 ft/pixel) and are of limited use for studying surface features. Of the seven good images, the lighting and time at which two pairs of images were taken are so close as to reduce the number to five distinct images. The Mission to Mars: Viking Orbiter Images of Mars CD-ROM set image numbers for these are: 035A72 (VO-1010), 070A13 (VO-1011), 561A25 (VO-1021), 673B54 & 673B56 (VO-1063), and 753A33 & 753A34 (VO-1028).
In one of the images taken by Viking 1 on July 25, 1976, a 2 km (1.2 miles) long Cydonian mesa, situated at 40.75° north latitude and 9.46° west longitude, had the appearance of a humanoid face. When the image was originally acquired, Viking chief scientist Gerry Soffen dismissed the “Face on Mars” in image 035A72 as a “trick of light and shadow”. However, a second image, 070A13, also shows the “face”, and was acquired 35 Viking orbits later at a different sun-angle from the 035A72 image. This latter discovery was made independently by Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar, two computer engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. DiPietro and Molenaar discovered the two misfiled images, Viking frames 035A72 and 070A13, while searching through NASA archives.
1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a space walk.
In 1982, Savitskaya flew to space as part of the Soyuz T-7 mission, alongside Leonid Popov and Aleksandr Serebrov, becoming the second woman to fly to space, some 19 years after Valentina Tereshkova. On her second spaceflight, on July 25, 1984 she also became the first woman to perform a space walk. She conducted an EVA outside the Salyut 7 space station for 3 hours and 35 minutes during which she cut and welded metals in space along with her colleague Vladimir Dzhanibekov. Of the 57 Soviet/Russian spacewalkers through 2010, she is the only female.