Saturday, July 25, 2015

Photo 51... & IT'S SCIENCE!

A Mighty Girl's photo.
Rosalind Franklin
Today in Mighty Girl history, Rosalind Franklin, the British scientist who first discovered the helix shape of DNA, was born in 1920. Franklin, who graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in 1945, used her knowledge of x-ray diffraction techniques to take the first photo of DNA, referred to as Photo 51.

Without her permission, fellow researcher Maurice Wilkins later showed her photo to James Watson and Francis Crick, who were also trying to determine the structure of DNA. Franklin's photo allowed them to deduce the structure and, shortly thereafter, they published a series of articles about the discovery, only mentioning Franklin's contributions in a footnote. While Watson, Crick and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their contributions to science, Franklin had passed away due to cancer four years prior and was not eligible for the award.

While Franklin has become increasingly recognized for her immense contributions to molecular biology, even today, students everywhere learn the story of Watson and Crick's discovery but few are taught about the critical contributions of Rosalind Franklin to understanding the nature of DNA. Franklin's story remains one of the most famous and egregious examples of a female scientist being denied credit for her work due to sexism.

For older teens and adults who would like to learn more about Franklin's story, we recommend the excellent biography "Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA" at
Rosalind Franklin is also one of the 52 female scientists profiled in the excellent recent release “Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and The World," which is highly recommended for teens and adults alike at

For several posters that feature Rosalind Franklin, check out this fantastic art print (, this minimalist poster (, and the History of Women in Science poster (

To introduce women's important scientific contributions to a new generation, in our "Scientists" section, we feature a variety of books for children and teens about real-life female scientists at…/history-biography/biography…
To encourage your Mighty Girl's interest in science, check out our blog post: "Science At Play: Top 20 Science Toys for Mighty Girls" at or browse our entire STEM section at