An odd start to the week you may think. There are outstanding female scientists who should’ve been awarded a Nobel Prize. I’m going to list some of the more famous ones.
Rosalind Franklin, whose scientific contribution was crucial to the discovery of the structure of DNA, yet disgracefully wasn’t included in the names of those scientists awarded a Nobel Prize for the work.
So, let’s learn about Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958). The opening of her entry in biography.com reads,
British chemist Rosalind Franklin is best known for her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA, and for her pioneering use of X-ray diffraction.
While her Wikipedia entry begins,
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.
I’ve read a number of arguments as to why Franklin’s crucial work wasn’t include in the Nobel Prize. The simple reasons are that Franklin had died some years before the award, and the Nobel Prize is not given to dead scientists. Also, the Nobel Prize limits the award to no more than three people for a particular subject.
I do think that, on reading many accounts of Franklin’s role in the discovery of DNA, her contribution was unfairly minimised. Most probably as the result of personality clashes with her fellow researchers. Though it shouldn’t be forgotten that misogyny and antisemitism were significant factors.
There is the uncomfortable fact that the X-ray diffraction image [click on image to learn more about it], of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, taken 1952 by Raymond Gosling, commonly referred to as “Photo 51”, during work by Rosalind Franklin on the structure of DNA, was released to Crick and Watson without her knowledge. Whether subsequently she took no action about the breach of protocol, should not excuse the lack of attribution to her work by the Nobel Prize winners.
Some sources, should you want to learn more about the issue: