Nutshell is the seventh, and last, design from the We are Animals I series, a series of pieces portraying great minds wronged by humanity’s thoughts. This piece shows Rosalind Franklin, an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, and viruses.
Franklin decided that she wanted to be a scientist when she was 15, against her parents’ wishes, who saw no future for her in this male-dominated area. Six years after the decision, she graduated in Natural Sciences from Newnham College, Cambridge University’s women-only college. Four years later, she earned her Ph.D. and, in the following year, became a researcher, analyzing the physical structure of charred materials using x-rays.
She used the same X-ray technique to later conduct the entire study which allowed her to determine the helical structure of the DNA molecule. With her observations and notes, biochemists James Dewey Watson and Francis Crick, along with the head of the laboratory where she worked, Maurice Wilkins, confirmed the double structure of the DNA molecule and thus won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962. However, Rosalind did not take any credit for her own research.
In the 1950s, women were still significantly undervalued in academia; they were segregated to exclusively female and non-scientific spaces. For example, they were not allowed to use campus restaurants, and many establishments did not even allow them to enter.
Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.
— Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958)
Franklin died young, aged 37, from late-discovered cancer. When she died in 1958, the scientist had received no recognition for her work.
Over the years, some letters were revealed; they showed conversations between Crick, Watson, and Wilkins. The scientists called her a “witch” and conspired against her presence in the laboratory. The letters they exchanged also show that they were fully aware that Rosalind’s research was the fundamental piece for the Nobel prize. Only in the 1960s, did she come to be recognized by the scientific community.
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