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Rosalind Franklin

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Rosalind Franklin

by Vittorio Luzzati
bromide print, July 1950
9 in. x 11 7/8 in. (229 mm x 302 mm)
Given by the sitter's sister, Jennifer Glynn, 1996
Photographs Collection
NPG x76912

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 112 Read entry

    The molecular biologist, chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-58) decided to become a scientist aged fifteen, enrolling at a London girls’ school that taught physics and chemistry. In 1938, despite her father’s resistance (he was against women’s higher education), she attended Newnham College, Cambridge, graduating in natural sciences three years later. In 1942, she joined the British Coal Utilisation Research Association, her studies there forming the basis of her Cambridge PhD in physical chemistry, which she gained in 1945. At a chemical-research laboratory in Paris, she became expert in X-ray crystallography before returning to England in 1951 to work as a research associate at King’s College, London, investigating the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Her work there as a research assistant was frequently belittled by male peers and she was barred from the university dining room and men-only pubs. In fact, during her time there she produced the images that would lead Francis Crick and James Watson to reveal the structure of DNA – a vital contribution that has been historically overlooked. Her subsequent work at Birkbeck, University of London, on tobacco mosaic and polio viruses, ended with her early death from cancer. When, in 1962, Crick, Watson and Maurice Wilkins (who had worked alongside Franklin at King’s) were awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, Watson suggested that Franklin might be included, but by then she had died, and the prize is not awarded posthumously.

  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 183
  • Parris, Matthew, Heroes and Villains: Scarfe at the National Portrait Gallery, 2003 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 30 September 2003 to 4 April 2004), p. 74

Placesback to top

  • Place made and portrayed: France (Cabane des Evettes, French Alps, France)

Events of 1950back to top

Current affairs

Princess Anne is born at Clarence house, the only daughter of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Art and science

C.S. Lewis publishes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Lewis was an Oxford Don, specialising in Medieval Literature and its use of allegory. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is often seen as an allegory of the Christian struggle between good and evil.


Following the Soviet and American withdrawal from the occupation of North and South Korea respectively, the Korean War breaks out as each side seeks to unify Korea under its own political system. While the U.S.A., U.K and other UN nations came to the defence of South Korea, North Korea had support from the Soviet Union and China. The war continued until 1953.

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