Listen: Rosalind Elsie Franklin, James Watson, Watson Crick discussed on Stuff You Missed in History Class
"He was near as Robert Evans. He the host of the podcast behind the bastards his launching a new show called it could happen here. Every season. He's going gonna take a premise. That's more commonly seen in fiction and explain how it could be closer than you might think to coming true in. It could happen here Robert is going to make indepth research statistics and his own experience. And in this season. He's going to draw on that experience. Reporting multiple civil wars around the world to look at the idea of a second American civil war. Listen and subscribe at apple podcasts or on the I heart radio app or wherever you listen to podcasts. Happy Saturday everyone today, we are going back to twenty eleven for Sarah into blame his episode on Rosalind Franklin and her research into the structure of DNA. And why for a long time that work went unrecognised enjoying? Welcome to stuff you missed in history. Class a production of iheartradio's how stuff works. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm charter boarding, and I'm Sarah dowdy. And even if you're not a science person at all, you probably know something about DNA that stuff in our cells that carries the cell's genetic information and basically determines all of our individual hereditary characteristics. Hair-color I color the whole deal. So if you watch TV, you probably know at least that much, but most of us probably have at least touched on the subject in high school to or will touch on it in high school, not to rule out our younger listeners, and we can recognize what DNA looks like that unmistakable double helix that looks like a twisting ladder or spiral staircase. I remember actually modeling it in middle school would leaner. So maybe some of our younger listeners already know will the people credited and most high school middle school textbooks. At least when I was in school, which admittedly was Ohio ago, the people credited with discovering the structure of DNA are James Watson and Francis. Crick? That's one of those assoc-. Creations that kind of has stuck in my mind over the years. You know, it's like Darwin and natural, selection and Watson and Crick and DNA and after all they along with MAURICE Wilkins received the Nobel prize in medicine for this discovery in nineteen sixty two. So it makes sense that their names would be most associated with this accomplishment. But especially in recent years, some more attention has been paid to someone else who may deserve a great deal of the credit for the discovery of DNA structure, and that's a British physical chemist named Rosalind Franklin so Franklin's involvement in this DNA discovery has caused quite a bit of controversy in the science world for a number of reasons. So number one, it's without question that her research played a really big role in helping thoughts out DNA structure, but because she died four years before Watson Crick and Wilkins even received the Nobel prize the prize only honors living scientists so she set for this year except for the except for the there was Ralph Steinman. Did you hear about that day one the? Prize for medicine, and I think the announcement was made three days after his death. So they went ahead. And they went ahead and let it stand because they had made the decision before they even knew he was dead. So so then up until this Kelvin, so yeah, they are more associated with it because they won the award for it and Watson Crick's famous nineteen Fifty-three paper detailing their discoveries in the journal nature. They only gave Franklin the tiniest credit. And so consequently, she's virtually or has been virtually unknown for this accomplishment. That's the second reason. And then the third is in his nineteen sixty eight book chronicling, the discovery called the double helix appropriately. Enough Watson noted the role Franklin's research played and also revealed that it played a role without Franklin's knowledge. It's a pretty big one. There get she. So you can see where the controversy comes in. This revelation raised a number of questions, for instance. Did Watson and Crick steel Franklin's research. And if they didn't would she have figured it out what she have figured out DNA structure on her own. So we're going to address these questions and more as we take a look at what really went down in England in nineteen fifty three when this particular discovery was made. But first we're going to take a look at another relevant question here who was Rosalind Franklin. Really? So in Watson's book, the double helix, he dissed Franklin a little bit, basically depicted her as stubborn and hard to work with an unfini-. But other people who knew her really characterized her in a different way. What we do know personality aside is that she had a passion for science from the very start who was born Rosalind Elsie Franklin in London England on July twenty fifth nineteen twenty. And of course, most girls around that time were expected to have very few goals outside of becoming successful wives and mothers, but Franklin's parents. Ellis Franklin and Muriel Ueli Franklin were more progressive and really encouraged their daughter academically. They even enrolled young Franklin in the Saint Paul's school for girls, which was one of the few schools at the time that offered physics and chemistry lessons to female students, and Franklin really excelled in these courses, and she decided by the age of fifteen that she really wanted a career in science, even though her parents wanted her to pursue social work. Instead. So she enrolled Newnham college at the university of Cambridge in nineteen thirty eight and was one of only five hundred women in a class of more than five thousand she earned a bachelor's degree in natural sciences with a specialty in physical chemistry in nineteen forty one. And we should stop fear for just one second when we have noted her scientific achievements or her initial ones to give a little disclaimer and say that we're not scientists here. Do not have degrees in science. So we're going to be kind of vague about some of the concepts that we explain here and hopefully listeners Wolfer. Give us for that. All in part of it too is to focus on the people involved in the story involved because sometimes if you get too bogged down in the other details, you miss out of jail can easily find out scientific details on the sa- continuing on with Franklin's life after earning her bachelor's degree. She got a research scholarship in the study of gas phase chromatography with the chemist Ronald GW Norrish who was a future Nobel prize winner himself, but the progression of World War Two in the fact that Franklin found Norrish kind of difficult to work with changed. Her course of study a little bit. According to encyclopedia Britannica, she served as an air raid warden in London and also left her job with Norrish in nineteen forty two to do war related work as a researcher with the British Coal utilization research association, that's kind of a mouthful in southern England. And while she was there. She worked in studying the physical chemistry of carbon and coal in the w-. Work. She did ultimately lead to some really enlightening ideas about coal structure. So a little bit of foreshadowing almost of of work she do later. She also learned the basics of molecular biology in crystallography while she was there and her work earned her a PHD from Cambridge in nineteen forty five. She also authored five coal related papers are still cited today before nineteen forty nine. According to an article by Lynn Osmond Elkin in physics today. Franklin's papers, quote, changed the way physical chemists view, the micro-structural of Kohl's and related substances. So Franklin's work in addition to getting some praise by current scientists got her another job offer in nineteen forty seven. She moved to Paris to work at the central laboratory of chemical services where under Jacques marrying she learned to use a technique called x Ray diffraction when working with crystalline matter like coal in just to give you a basic rundown of that x Ray diffraction allow scientists to see the three. Three dimensional structures of molecules by blasting crystal with x Ray. So the raise bounce off the atoms in diffraction, different directions, and the escaping xrays expose photographic film to create this kind of shadow of the molecule, and then scientists interpret the photo to reveal the molecule shape and its measurements. And you know, allows them to look at it on a closer level. So Franklin used these techniques to discover a lot of details about the structure of carbon even as it's heated and changes into other forms. They're not just carbon in a static state. But transforming."