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Race for the Double Helix

Deoxyribonucleic Acid, DNA for short, is a molecule that has been one of the biggest mysteries of modern science. What is its structure? Does it contain the genetic code and if it does how is it used? These are some of the questions that puzzled scientist in the early fifties. Many scientists tried to figure out DNA but only four came close to answering the questions. Those scientists were James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin.
Rosalind Franklin had university degrees in chemistry, she got her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cambridge University. During WW2, Franklin had made contributions to understanding the structure of graphite and other carbon compounds.After the war she joined the Laboratoire Centrale des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris, where she was introduced to the technique of X-ray crystallography and became a respected scientist in this field.In 1951 she returned to England to King’s College, London, where she upgraded the X-ray crystallography laboratory there to work with DNA.Franklin was responsible for much of the research and work that led to the discovery of the structure ofDNA. Franklin died of cancer in 1958, at 37.
Maurice Wilkins was born in New Zealand but studied to be a physicist at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He worked during World War II on the improvement of cathode-ray tube screens for radar and helped the United Stateswork on the Manhattan Project.He researched biophysics with his Cambridge mentor, John T. Randall;first at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and then at King’s College, London. It was Wilkins’ idea to study DNA by using X-ray crystallographic, which he had already begun to use when Rosalind Franklin became a research associate for John Randall. The relationship between Wilkins and Franklin was not good which probably slowed their progress.
In 1951, 23 year old James Watson, an American, got in toCavendish Labora…

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