Today, Google is paying tribute to British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin on what would have been her 93rd birthday. The logo highlights Franklin’s contribution to DNA research with an illustrated image of the biophysicist examining the double helix structure of DNA via an X-ray image.
It was Franklin’s X-ray images of DNA that led researchers to identify DNA’s double helix structure, a discovery that resulted in a 1962 Nobel Prize for Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins. Francis Crick claimed his and Watson’s 1953 hypothesis on DNA structure was based on Franklin’s work and her X-ray images proving DNA’s helical structure.
Beyond her work around DNA, Franklin’s Ph.D. thesis on coal properties led to the ability to predict the performance of coal for fuel purposes, and resulted in the production of coal for wartime devices, such as gas masks. At Birkbeck College, Franklin studied the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and published a paper that claimed TMV particles were the same length – a theory that contradicted earlier beliefs around the virus’s structure.
Born into an affluent family from Notting Hill on July 25, 1920, Franklin died at the early age of 37 from breast cancer in 1958, leaving her contributions to DNA research often overlooked.