Interesting read from Fortune that highlights the contributions of female scientists from throughout history that were crucial but often ignored, specifically the work of Rosalind Franklin.
Rosalind Franklin’s newfangled “camera” was poised delicately, fifteen millimeters away from the lone, suspended DNA fiber, now chemically stripped of its protein cloak. The experimental device shot a beam of X-rays at its infinitesimal target, which in turn yielded a pattern on some photographic film resting behind it as the radioactive waves diffracted off of the molecule’s atoms and etched a smudgy outline of its shape. The technique, called crystallography, was a bit like making a shadow animal on the wall with one’s hand and a flashlight. Except this shadow image took as long as one hundred hours to create.
Franklin, then just shy of her 32nd birthday and working as a research chemist at King’s College in London, had to rush off to a meeting at the Royal Society and so didn’t wait around for the full image to come into focus. (Raymond Gosling, a young Ph.D. student was there to run the machine in her absence.) But on May 2, 1952, when she returned to her lab to see the crystallographic picture of DNA—the 51st photograph she had taken—the image was beautiful. It “showed a stark x, formed of tigerish black stripes radiating out from the center,” writes Brenda Maddox in her wonderful biography, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA. “The spaces between the arms of the x were completely blank. It was the clearest picture ever taken of the B form of DNA, unquestionably a helix.”
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