Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rosalind Franklin's Doodle:Girls in Science

Rosalind Franklin

Today Google doodle celebrates the life and work of British biophysicist and x-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, whose research led to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Google Doodle marks what would have been Franklin's 93rd birthday, and the photograph that should have earned her a far more famous place in the History books.

The second "o" in the doodle contains her image, while the "l" has been replaced with the DNA double helix.

Franklin was born in Notting Hill, London on 25 July 1920. And she died from ovarian cancer in April 1958, aged just 37.

Franklin also made critical contributions to our understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, viruses, coal and graphite.

Rosalind Franklin

The scientist has perhaps become best known as "the woman who was not awarded the Nobel prize for the co-discovery of the structure of DNA".

The story goes that he took some of her x-ray crystallography images without her knowledge and showed them to his friends, Francis Crick and James Watson, who were also trying to discover the structure of DNA.

Franklin excelled at Science and attended one of the few girls' schools in London that taught Physics and Chemistry. 

When she was 15, she decided to become a scientist. Her father was decidedly against higher education for women and wanted Rosalind to be a social worker. 

Ultimately he relented, and in 1938 she enrolled at Newnham College, Cambridge, graduating in 1941. She held a graduate fellowship for a year, but quit in 1942 to work at the British Coal Utilization Research Association, where she made fundamental studies of carbon and graphite microstructures. This work was the basis of her doctorate in physical chemistry, which she earned from Cambridge University in 1945.

Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1962.
Crick later acknowledged that Franklin's images were "the data we actually used" to formulate their 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA.

The most significant of those images is known as Photo 51, which is also the inspiration for an exhibition currently at Somerset House in London.

In 1972 she refused to accept the Annie J. Cannon Award of the American Astronomical Society because it was awarded to women only:

"It is high time that discrimination in favor of, as well as against, women in professional life be removed". 

Rosalind Franklin

Happily, 12 years later the Royal Society awarded her its highest honor, regardless of gender, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. At 91 she is professor emeritus at UCSD.


I am a big fan of Google doodles! You know it! It is not the first time I wrote about Google doodles. I believe that doodles can be interesting digital resources for educators.

Doodles are the fun, surprising, and spontaneous motivation that we can introduce into our lessons to teach about famous writerspoets, scientistspioneers.

Everyday we must introduce something captivating in our lessons, even we are teaching important skills in serious curriculum. 
Passion is what will make our students enter in the classroom waiting for something special in the middle of a lesson everyday. 

This doodle is a wonderful digital resource to promote Science and Physics studies for girls in schools and universities. Rosalind Franklin is another good example to share with young girls students.

Rosalind Franklin as Marie Curie demonstrate well that for women who embark on scientific careers, stunning success is possible.

Some resources:
  • If you want to learn more about Rosalind Franklin and the tempestuous story of DNA, you will enjoy reading Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox (Amazon UKAmazon US]).
  • Defending Franklin's Leagacy | NOVA 


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Rosalind Franklin's Doodle: Girls in Science by G-Souto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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