Sixty years ago this week, James Watson and Francis Crick unveiled their model for the structure of DNA in the journal Nature. It was a revolutionary event, but it wasn’t built on their work alone. An unsung hero named Rosalind Franklin made enormous contributions to DNA research, including the X-ray diffraction images of DNA which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix.
In the end, however, Watson and Crick received a Nobel for their work, along with Maurice Wilkins, and Franklin did not.
We think that’s a shame. And so today, in Rosalind Franklin’s honor, we’re celebrating other unsung female heroes of science.
First, Henrietta Lacks. An impoverished African American woman who died in 1951 at the age of 31, her cells were taken without her consent and used to create a still-living line of cells that have been used in breakthrough research ever since. Rebecca Skloot wrote her seminal biography, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."
Second, Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who lived in the 1800s and died at age 36. She wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a computer. Because of this, she is widely considered the world's first computer programmer. Dr. Betty Alexandra Toole is an expert on Lovelace. Her book is called "Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers."