24.07.20

Institute celebrates Rosalind Franklin Centenary

Today marks 100 years since the birth of our namesake, Rosalind Franklin. Rosalind Franklin is a world-renowned scientist, who is now most famous for her part in discovering the structure of DNA. However, as an X-ray crystallographer, she also made great contributions to our fundamental understanding of the structures of coal, early in her career, and spent the later studying viruses, a subject in which she became a world-leading expert. 

To celebrate the centenary, we are delighted to announce the launch of our three-part podcast series, which will discuss Franklin’s life, work and legacy. Our first episode features Franklin’s sister, Jenifer Glynn. Jenifer gives a moving account of Rosalind’s life and work from her unique perspectiveThe podcast is available via our website and on soundcloud. 

Photo courtesy of Jenifer Glynn

Future episodes will delve deeper into Franklin’s work and legacy, featuring Professor Ken Holmes, who worked with Franklin while she was at Birkbeck, and Professor Judith Howard, eminent researcher and X-ray crystallographer at the University of Durham, amongst others 

For the last episode, we want to hear from our community on how Franklin has inspired researchers. We’re asking contributors to record a 30 second audio clip – if you want to take part submit your clip or contact us for more details via our website. 

On Sunday 26th July, at 3pm, our director, Professor James Naismith, will take part in a panel discussion which will focus on the importance of Franklin’s work on viruses. Willesden Cemetery, the site of Franklin’s grave, are hosting this event on Zoom, register for it here. 

Many others in the community have joined in commemorating Franklin’s life and work. This week, we have seen the Royal Mint share a commemorative 50p featuring Photo 51, the iconic image taken by Franklin’s team, which depicts the helical ‘B’ form of DNAThe image is indisputably one of the most important and beautiful images in life science, and provided the solution to the double helical structure of DNA, a problem famously solved by Watson and Crick. You can read more about the coin here 

There have also been some wonderful articles out so far, including an editorial in NatureProfessor Elspeth Garman’s article for Acta Crystallographica and King’s College London wrote about the research that continues Rosalind Franklin’s legacy there. We are sure many others will share their sentiments over the coming weeks too. 

Our director, Professor Naismith, said: “2020 marks the centenary of Franklin’s birth. As an institute named for a pioneer of biological imaging, we are proud to follow in her footsteps and continue her work in viruses, applied here to an unprecedented global pandemic. Franklin’s work transformed biology, and our projects aspire to that same transformational effect.”