Arab Today, arab today my sister rosalind franklin by jenifer glynn
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

My Sister Rosalind Franklin by Jenifer Glynn

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today My Sister Rosalind Franklin by Jenifer Glynn

London - Arabstoday

On my way to the British Library I pass the future Francis Crick Institute, formerly the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. A hoarding tells me that Crick \"is best known for his work with James Watson, Maurice Wilkins and others which led to identifying the structure of DNA in 1953\". And others: despite decades of attempts to redress the injustice done to Rosalind Franklin, in the official corridors of biomedical science hers is still, apparently, the name that cannot be uttered. We like to wrap major discoveries around a single person – it\'s simpler that way. So it has to be Darwin\'s theory of evolution by natural selection, not Darwin and Wallace\'s. We reluctantly accept that DNA belongs to a two-headed hydra called Watson and Crick (the Cambridge physicist Neville Mott laboured for years under the delusion that a single person called Watson-Crick was behind it all). But human affairs generally involve a tangled skein of interactions between many people, and science is no exception. The true story of DNA would state – as Franklin\'s friend and colleague the Nobel laureate Aaron Klug has pointed out – that the major credit for the discovery rests with Watson, Crick and Franklin. Franklin was very close to deducing the structure when Watson and Crick revealed it, and without her X-ray diffraction data, the double helix would have been merely speculative. DNA is a special molecule and required insights from numerous disciplines – biological, chemical and physical. The biochemist Erwin Chargaff\'s discovery that the amounts of adenine and thymine bases in DNA were roughly the same, as were those of cytosine and guanine, was as crucial as Franklin\'s X-ray pictures. So was the almost incidental remark of the physical chemist Jerry Donohue, sharing a lab with Watson, that the textbook structures of these bases were wrong. Then there was Alec Stokes and his mathematical analysis of the X-ray picture that proclaimed the structure to be a helix. But Rosalind Franklin is the woman at the centre of this story, which has now been told several times. Franklin\'s friend, the writer Anne Sayre, wrote the passionate and brilliant Rosalind Franklin and DNA in 1975. Brenda Maddox\'s biography, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, published in 2002, remains the most readable single-volume history, not just of Franklin\'s life, but of the whole DNA story. All the protagonists have had their say, one way or another, except Franklin herself, who died of cancer at the age of 37, with her scientific work scarcely acknowledged. Many attempts have been made to explain what went wrong. Unlike the helix itself, the institutional muddledom, misunderstandings and personal antipathies that attended the unveiling of this most elegant and beautiful molecule almost defy unravelling. All three of the protagonists who were eventually awarded the Nobel prize (Maurice Wilkins, Franklin\'s colleague, was the Third Man of DNA) were told at some time by their superiors to cease working on the subject, as was Franklin only one week before the structure was published. The two teams concerned, at King\'s College, London, and the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, were both operating under the aegis of the Medical Research Council (MRC); DNA being a subject at the junction of biology, physics and chemistry, a grand collaboration would have been in order. Instead there was secrecy, suspicion, duplication and duplicity. A deal allowed the three papers that launched the DNA era to be published simultaneously in the journal Nature on 25 April 1953, but the way in which the papers referred to and acknowledged each other obscured the course of the discovery. The key paper was Watson and Crick\'s and this failed to report that one of Franklin\'s X-ray pictures – which they had seen without her permission or knowledge – was the clinching evidence for their structure. Further corroboration came from a report she had written for the MRC that Crick had seen, again in an irregular fashion. Franklin accepted Watson and Crick\'s triumph with good grace and she became close friends with Crick, whom she greatly admired. She also had good scientific relations with Watson in the five years remaining to her after the DNA breakthrough. Despite this, Watson and Crick never told her the truth about their appropriation of her work and Watson went on to write an exceptionally patronising and derogatory account of her in his famous memoir The Double Helix (1968), which caused great distress to Franklin\'s family. Many other people were appalled by the book, for various reasons, including Crick, who angrily urged Watson not to publish. Some have attributed Watson\'s compulsion to create an unsympathetic portrait of Franklin to his sense of guilt at his shoddy treatment of her work. Franklin was more than the legendary Dark Lady of DNA: in her short life she conducted three major pieces of research. Her first work was on the apparently unpromising subject of coal, but this led to major insights into the structure of graphite and can be seen as a forerunner of the great industry that now stretches from carbon fibre, through buckminsterfullerene and carbon nanotubes to the poster child of nanotechnology today: graphene. After DNA she did important work on the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). Jenifer Glynn, Franklin\'s younger sister, now offers an insider portrait. She doesn\'t add anything new to our knowledge of Franklin\'s scientific work, which was fully explored by Sayre and Maddox. Rosalind revealed little of her scientific life to her family. Jenifer is the junior sister by nine years and she writes mostly about Rosalind as the rounded person she knew: her love of France, of travel, of friendship. The DNA chapter is short and entitled \"Misery in London\". Glynn prefers to stress the successful period of research into TMV that followed and, in her last chapter, takes a balanced view of the rival myths that have swirled around Rosalind\'s name since her death. She attacks Watson\'s The Double Helix for its betrayal, but she also resists the iconisation of her sister as \"a triumphant heroine in a man\'s world\". Her eloquent final pages conclude that Rosalind Franklin was \"simply a very good scientist with an ambition to be a Fellow of the Royal Society before the age of 40\". Her death cheated her of that.

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