Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Rosalind Franklin: Nature Comment on the History of the Structure of DNA

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Nature Briefing (April 26 2023) noted the anniversary, the 70th, of one of the most revolutionary papers in biology.

April 25 marks the 70th year of the publication in 1953 of three papers in the British journal Nature of the discovery of the structure of DNA which transformed biology--education, research, understanding-- truly the stuff of scientific revolution.

On the occasion is this welcome and reader friendly, deeply researched and documented, and well illustrated history of  the discovery of DNA in a Comment in Nature, for April 25, 2023 by British scientist Matthew Cobb who is writing a history of Francis Crick and American historian of biological science, Nathaniel Comfort who is writing a history of James Watson. 

As you know it led to a controversy which has become part of popular culture on whether Watson "stole" data from Rosalind Franklin. To be blunt, what has been portrayed as having happened, didn't. The essay provides the details on what Rosalind Franklin contributed to the discovery of DNA's structure. By the way, Watson's self-aggrandizing account -- he didn't suffer from a deficiency of ego, thinking that all people were much dumber than he -- contributed to the fray which is described by Cobb and Comfort as a semi-fictional account.

It is almost unnecessary to add but this controversy will continue no matter the evidence. It will never be sufficient. 

P. S. Nature Briefing calls attention to the April 26 Nature Podcast with Benjamin Thompson & Shamini Bundell. It begins with a segment (from 00:57 s to 13 m 41 s) with a fast paced story of the discovery, best listened to after reading the full story above. It links to the story in the April 26, 2023 story in Nature by Matthew Cobb & Nathaniel Comfort, published on the 70th anniversary of the publication of three papers on the structure of DNA.

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