Thursday, 25 July 2013

Google Doodle: Happy birthday, Rosalind Franklin





The latest Google Doodle celebrates the life and work of Rosalind Franklin, who was born on the 25th July 1920 in Notting Hill, London. This wonderfully designed image brilliantly represents her crucial x-ray crystallography work on DNA fibres that contributed to the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA.


Here, she is pictured with 'Photo 51', the X-ray diffraction image that she produced with Raymond Gosling in May 1952 that would become one of the most symbolic images in scientific history. Franklin's x-ray diffraction work provided key experimental data to support a helical sturcture of DNA and with the C2 symmetry present in 'Photo 51' the strong possability that the helix might be double stranded.

Although Franklin could see the helical pattern within the photo she decided to concentrate on the more crystalline A-form DNA that was more likely to lead to the discovery of the structure using x-ray crystallography alone. It was only in the last six weeks of her time at King's that she began to analysis the B-form of DNA seen in Photo 51, but during this period Watson and Crick announced they had made their discovery.

As her papers are now part of the digitised content of the 'Makers of Modern Genetics' online research resource it is now possible to follow to access her laboratory notebooks and witness her analysis of DNA and how incredibly close she got to solving the structure of DNA (http://wellcomelibrary.org/using-the-library/subject-guides/genetics/makers-of-modern-genetics/digitised-archives/). In addition, the resource allows you to explore the wider context of the King's Biophysics Department at the time through the digitised papers of Maurice Wilkins.


The signficance of the DNA work undertaken at King's is currently being celebrated at the "Photo 51- DNA to the Brain" exhibition, within the Indigo Rooms, at Somerset House (http://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/whats-on/Photo51.aspx) and with a series of fascinating talks and events.


To read more about the history of DNA research at King's have a look at previous posts on the site or visit the King's College London archives website where there is an online exhibition on the subject:
http://www.kingscollections.org/exhibitions/archives/dna/