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Google Doodle: How Rosalind Franklin photographed DNA (+video)

Thursday's Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of Rosalind Franklin, the first photographer of DNA.

Rosalind Franklin - A Digital Story
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Photographs document the stations of human life: the snapshot of a young child tossing a ball, the image of a young bride coming down the aisle, the portrait of an old man lined with age and wrinkles.

But when Rosalind Franklin took an x-ray diffraction image of DNA in 1952, the scientist had captured more than a second of humanity. She created an image of the building block of humans. This photo of DNA was referred to as Photo 51. In her lifetime, Ms. Franklin received only token recognition of her contributions to the study of DNA, while James Watson and Francis Crick were widely hailed as the scientists that discovered the molecule's double-helix structure.

Thursday’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been Rosalind Franklin’s 93rd birthday with an image of Mr. Watson and Mr. Crick’s double helix – and Franklin’s Photo 51.

Franklin was born on July 25, 1920 in London. She exhibited a love of science from an early age and enrolled at Newnham College in 1938 to study chemistry. After she graduated with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree (Cambridge did not award degrees to women until 1948), Franklin worked as an assistant researcher at the British Coal Utilization Research Association. In 1946, she moved to Paris to work at the State Central Chemical Laboratory Services. There, Franklin learned how to do x-ray diffraction from crystallographer Jacques Mering. X-ray diffraction allows researchers to determine the structure of a molecule, and is the technique Franklin would later use to take Photo 51 of DNA.


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