When Rosalind Franklin, Ph.D., focused an x-ray diffraction instrument on a DNA sample in 1952, the resulting image, widely known as Photo 51, was later used by James Watson, Ph.D., and Francis Crick, Ph.D., to help decipher the double helical stucture of the DNA molecule, which led to the two men receiving a Nobel Prize in 1953. Dr. Franklin won nothing for her work and died in 1958 at the age of 37 from uterine cancer.
Most biologists know the details surrounding the discovery of DNA’s structure and many believe a great disservice was done to Dr. Franklin by not acknowledging her critical contribution until years after the fact. Indeed, Dr. Franklin’s story was a major impetus for the founding of the Rosalind Franklin Society (www.rosalindfranklinsociety.org) in 2007 with the goal of “recognizing and fostering the contributions made by women in the life sciences.”
Anna Ziegler’s play, Photograph 51, takes a close look at Dr. Franklin’s life in the lab and her interactions with her male colleagues. The play won the STAGE International Script Competition Prize in 2008 as the best new play about science and technology.
GEN recently interviewed Ziegler about Photograph 51 and, more specifically, about Dr. Rosalind Franklin.