Who discovered DNA?

| | February 19, 2024

ON APRIL 25, 1953, three papers were published in Nature, the prestigious scientific journal,[1] which exposed the “fundamentally beautiful”[2] structure of DNA to the public, and sounded the starting gun of the DNA Revolution.[3]

The authors of these papers revealed the now-famous double-helix structure of DNA, thereby unlocking the secret code of the human gene. Knowledge and understanding of DNA’s structure would revolutionize the way scientists attack diseases of the human body, allowing them to “see” and to “read” the body’s coded information on heredity.[4]

Before the 1950s,[5] scientists suspected but possessed no actual knowledge of the structure of DNA,[6] though they had elementary knowledge of heredity from such scientists as Gregor Mendel.[7] The race to discover the structure of DNA was run by many scientists.[8]

Recommended Reading

The most notable were Linus Pauling, an American chemist working at Cal Tech, James Watson, an American biologist, Francis Crick, a British physicist, both working at Cambridge, and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, X-ray crystallographers[9] working at King’s College, London.[10]

Few people outside of the scientific community know of Rosalind Franklin, an accomplished X-ray crystallographer, chemist, and molecular biologist.[11] Fewer still are aware that it was Rosalind Franklin’s clear X-ray photographs that established unequivocally the structure of DNA. It would be nearly impossible to name a scientific discovery in the last century, except for Einstein’s theory of relativity, that had as much of an impact as that of the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule.

This paper describes Rosalind Franklin’s discovery, and reveals Maurice Wilkins’ treachery in secretly showing to her rival, James Watson, her famous X-ray photograph[12] of the “B form” (also referred to as the “wet” form) of the DNA molecule,[13] which unlocked the code that he was desperately seeking.

The intense personal drama that surrounded the race to unlock DNA’s structure highlights this discovery’s scientific importance. It is sometimes forgotten that it is the inspired labor of hardworking, individual people that catapults a discovery to its next level, incidentally “making history.” This paper describes such a revolutionary discovery.

After April 25, 1953, the date the Nature articles were published, historical credit for the great discovery of the structure of DNA was given to James Watson and Francis Crick.[14] Had Watson, Crick, and Wilkins properly acknowledged Franklin’s contribution, Rosalind Franklin would have shared the enormous public recognition that Watson and Crick received for discovering the helical structure of the DNA molecule.[15]

For it was Rosalind Franklin’s revolutionary X-ray photograph of the DNA molecule which illuminated for James Watson the helical structure of DNA, leading to an “understanding of the genetic code and how it is used to make proteins…one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern biology.”[16]

Rosalind Franklin’s Early Life

Born on July 25, 1920,[17] one of five children in an established, fourth-generation British family,[18] Rosalind Franklin started out simply as a girl who knew very early in life what she wanted to do as an adult.[19] She dreamed of one day becoming a scientist,[20] and her mother and her aunt encouraged her to pursue her dream.

After graduating from St. Paul’s Girls School in London in 1938,[21] Franklin studied French in Paris and then returned to England to attend Newnham College at Cambridge University.[22] There, she was encouraged by physicist Adrienne Weill to pursue her doctorate in chemistry, which she was awarded in 1945.[23]

While at Cambridge and then subsequently as a research chemist in Paris, Franklin learned X-ray crystallography and became proficient at it.[24], [25] Neither Rosalind Franklin nor her mentors had any idea that her work would one day revolutionize modern biology.

What is X-Ray Crystallography?

X-ray crystallography is the revolutionary way (in 1951) to view the 3-dimensional structure of molecules. This method requires the chemist to painstakingly remove the DNA from a cell, and then to convert it into a crystal form.

The next step is to shine X-rays into the crystal. These X-rays are diffracted by the atoms in the crystal, in effect throwing the atoms’ shadow onto photographic negatives. These X-rays can therefore produce an image of the actual 3-dimensional position of the atoms in the crystal of a molecule.[26]

Rosalind Franklin at King’s College

Known for her expertise in the emerging field of X-ray crystallography, in 1951, at the age of thirty-one, Franklin was offered a fellowship as a DNA researcher in the laboratory of John T. Randall at King’s College in London.[27] The other crystallographer already working at King’s was Maurice Wilkins.

Unfortunately, Randall interviewed and hired Rosalind Franklin on a day when Wilkins was absent, and thus, unbeknownst to Franklin, she began work at King’s under a cloud of suspicion and resentment from Wilkins, who should have been her closest colleague.

The hostility that Wilkins showed to Franklin, and which she eventually reciprocated, proved to be the tragic catalyst for Rosalind Franklin’s betrayal at Wilkins’ hand.[28], [29]

The picture that emerges of thirty-year-old Rosalind Franklin is of a five-foot-tall,[30] slim and “deeply shy,”[31] single-minded, serious young scientist. She was in the unique and difficult position of being an unmarried female seriously pursuing excellence in the overwhelmingly male environment of elite, British university research laboratories.

Aaron Klug, one of Franklin’s colleagues at King’s, describes her: “She wasn’t blustering. She spoke her opinions firmly, and I think people were unaccustomed to dealing with that in a woman…She was very much a rationalist.”[32] Sylvia Jackson, a colleague of Franklin, recalled that, “She was absolutely dedicated, a tremendously hard worker. She strode along rather quickly; she was enormously friendly if you gave her half a chance.”[33]

Yet it is clear from reading James Watson’s 1968 autobiographical work, The Double Helix, that he could not tolerate Rosalind Franklin’s status as a female and as a scientist:

…[S]he did not emphasize her feminine qualities. Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not. There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair, while at the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents…Unfortunately…there was no denying she had a good brain.[34]

Social scientist Elizabeth Janeway is troubled by Watson’s aggressively unsympathetic portrayal of Rosalind Franklin. The only person in his book that Watson describes so personally and so venomously is Franklin.

Even the casual reader of Watson’s autobiography comes away knowing that “Watson’s idea of where women belong in science [is] outside it.”[35] Watson wrote, “The real problem was Rosy. The thought could not be avoided that the best home for a feminist is in another person’s lab.”[36]

Only James Watson seemed to go out of his way to portray Rosalind Franklin in such a cruel fashion. Even Francis Crick, James Watson’s collaborator, called Watson’s characterization of Franklin in The Double Helix a “contemptible pack of damned nonsense.”[37] Crick also recalled, “I don’t think Rosalind saw herself as a crusader or pioneer.

I think she just wanted to be treated as a serious scientist.”[38] From Francis Crick’s recollections of Franklin, and from those of her colleagues, it becomes obvious that Rosalind Franklin did not see herself as leading a revolution as she quietly made great strides with X-ray crystallography. Her revolutionary breakthrough doomed her because she presented too much competition to Watson and Wilkins.

The reason for Watson’s warped view of Franklin may also lie in his scientific rivalry with her, and in his drive to succeed, regardless of who stood in his way.

A Bitter Rivalry

Rosalind Franklin’s and Maurice Wilkins’ mission at Randall’s laboratory at King’s College was to uncover the structure of the DNA molecule using X-ray crystallography.[39] In the early 1950s, the two laboratories in England that were working to uncover the crystal structures of biological materials were King’s College in London, which was studying the structure of DNA, and the Cavendish Laboratory in Cam-bridge, which was studying the structure of proteins.

These two areas of research were expected to remain separate. But James Watson grew bored with the study of proteins, and secretly turned his mind to DNA research, the area in which Wilkins and Franklin were working.[40]

Rosalind Franklin’s sophisticated X-ray crystallography photographs, together with her research findings proving that DNA has an ordered structure, helped put King’s far ahead in the DNA race.[41] In the spring of 1951, James Watson met Maurice Wilkins.

They struck up an acquaintance, which Watson encouraged over the next year by sympathizing with Wilkins’ complaints about having to work in the same lab with a woman scientist named “Rosy” Franklin.[42] Francis Crick later recalled that Watson’s harsh view of Franklin was influenced entirely by Wilkins, and was completely warped. “What Jim put down in his book [The Double Helix] is all ideas he had from Maurice [Wilkins]. Jim never really knew Rosalind…Maurice had very fixed ideas [about Rosalind] which Jim accepted. I told him they were wrong.”[43]

Several months later, in November of 1951, Rosalind Franklin presented a lecture on her startling and revolutionary (but correct) discovery that the DNA’s backbone lies on the outside of the molecule, and that its basic structure is helical.[44] Watson, only a train ride away and intensely interested in DNA, attended her talk, “but took no notes and…misremembered important parts of what Franklin said.”[45] Watson did not understand Franklin’s lecture because his doctoral training was in ornithology, not in chemistry, and furthermore, he resisted being lectured in the subject by a woman.[46], [47]

As a result, when Watson returned to his lab in Cambridge, he and Crick built a model of the DNA molecule with its backbone on the inside.[48] When he proudly showed this incorrect model to Wilkins and Franklin, the meeting turned into an embarrassment for Watson and Crick. When news of Watson and Crick’s failure reached Sir Lawrence Bragg, the head of Cavendish Laboratory, he ordered them to leave the study of the structure of DNA to the researchers at King’s, and to concentrate on proteins.[49]

Meanwhile, Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, researching DNA at Kings, did not function as a team; far from it. Franklin had been hired as a full-fledged, independent research scientist, but Maurice Wilkins refused to recognize her as such, and repeatedly tried to use her as his assistant.

Franklin resisted this treatment, and refused to share her X-ray crystallography research with Wilkins unless he agreed to treat her as an equal. Franklin was laboring in a laboratory whose rules did not permit her, as a female scientist, even to dine in the same lunch room with the male scientists.[50]

Wilkins, possibly feeling insecure in the shadow of Franklin’s superior ability with X-ray crystallography, and because of her other recent research successes, became impossible for Franklin to work with day-today.

Latest Tech Articles

If Franklin expressed her disagreement on professional matters, Wilkins became silent and would not speak to her.[51] Their relationship turned into outright animosity toward each other,[52] leaving Franklin to work alone to perfect her X-ray photographs in her quest for the solution of the structure of the DNA molecule.

Franklin’s Revolutionary X-ray Photograph

In May of 1952, working alone, Franklin photographed DNA in two forms: a “dry” form and a “wet” form (also known as the “B form”). Her clear X-ray photograph of the wet form of DNA was revolutionary. “No one had photographed the wet form before.”[53] Franklin’s X-ray was astonishing because she took the photograph looking down the long DNA molecule.

She demonstrated that the structure of the DNA molecule was a helix, or twisted ladder, because her photographic view down the core of the molecule showed an X.[54] Forty-six years after James Watson viewed Franklin’s startling photograph, he still recalled it vividly: “I was shown Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray photograph, and whoa! It was a helix! And a month later, we had the structure.”[55] Franklin stored her X-ray photograph of the wet form of the DNA molecule in her drawer in her laboratory.[56]

Unbeknownst to Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, preoccupied with preventing Franklin from getting ahead of him in her research, began to secretly copy her work when she was absent from the lab, and he concealed these copies of her private work in his drawer, without her knowledge.[57]

A Hidden Alliance

In January, 1953,[58] having kept in touch with Wilkins after the disastrous meeting that revealed their incorrect model, Watson came to King’s to visit him. At the time, Watson and Crick were feverishly trying to find the structure of DNA before their most famous rival, Linus Pauling.[59] James Watson describes the now-famous betrayal scene:

Walking down the passage…[Wilkins] revealed that…he had quietly been duplicating some of Rosy’s and Gosling’s [Rosalind’s assistant] X-ray work…Then the even more important cat was let out of the bag: Since the middle of the summer Rosy had had evidence for a new three-dimensional form of DNA…When I asked what the pattern was like, Maurice [Wilkins] went into an adjacent room to pick up a print of the new form they called the “B” structure. The instant I saw the picture my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race. The pattern was unbelievably simpler than those obtained previously…and Maurice told me he was now quite convinced she [Rosalind Franklin] was correct.[60]

Little did Rosalind Franklin know that her laboratory colleague, Maurice Wilkins, was in the next room revealing months of her work to her competitor! Compounding Wilkins’ betrayal of his King’s colleague was that Watson not only took in all the information that Wilkins was feeding him, but he also returned with the ill-gotten data to Cambridge, with the full knowledge that it was Rosalind Franklin’s work. James Watson absolutely knew that it belonged to her and not to Wilkins, and that Wilkins had obtained it without Franklin’s permission.[61]

Violation of the Scientists’ Code of Honor

It is necessary for scientists to share information with one another, for if they did not, science and knowledge would not develop and grow. However, the tacit agreement among scientists who use or borrow one another’s findings is that proper credit must be given to the author or originator of the work.[62] James Watson violated this agreement.[63]

Watson, after viewing Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray photograph of the now-famous “B form” of DNA with its clear “X” in its center, recognizing her intellectual leap forward, rushed back to Cambridge to tell Crick.[64] Watson and Crick had not performed any experiments or collected data on their own. They used Franklin’s data to formulate a theory of DNA’s structure.

Within days they built a correct model of the structure of DNA based on Rosalind Franklin’s work, and then hastened to publish this model in Nature. The authors did not give appropriate credit to Franklin,[65] in effect robbing her of the opportunity to be properly recognized for her role in the revolutionary discovery of the structure of DNA.[66]

It is beyond dispute that without Franklin’s photograph, Watson and Crick would have been left with their incorrect model of the DNA molecule.[67] In the fall of 1952, Wilkins had induced Rosalind Franklin to accompany him on the train ride up to Cambridge to view Watson and Crick’s model of the DNA molecule.

In Watson’s own words, “I really had to do model building because I wasn’t qualified to solve the structure [of DNA] by crystallography.”[68] Within a few moments of viewing their model Franklin knew it to be defective, turned on her heel, and walked out to catch the next train back to London.[69]

Left on his own, Watson would not have made the revolutionary breakthrough and built the correct model of the DNA molecule when he did. He did not have the scientific training or specialized skill to do so.

But Rosalind Franklin did. Franklin’s famous X-ray photograph clearly showed, for the first time ever, an “X” shape at the center of the molecule.[70] Watson recalled standing in the lab at King’s, looking at Rosalind’s X-ray. “It had this cross…And so that was it! When I saw it, [there wasn’t] any doubt that it was a helix.”[71]

It followed, then, that Wilkins—who stole Franklin’s photograph from her drawer at King’s to show to Watson—along with Watson and Crick, who used Franklin’s work, at the very least were ethically bound to properly credit her. This is because Franklin’s X-ray allowed them to properly model the structure of DNA (as a helix with the phosphates on the outside) months before they would have deduced the proper structure on their own.[72]

Rosalind Franklin’s Untimely Death

Franklin died of ovarian cancer[73] on April 16, 1958, when she was just thirty-seven years old. The New York Times praised her as being one of “a select band of pioneers.”[74] She died four years before James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discovery of the structure of DNA.[75] In an ironic twist of fate, several years before her death Franklin became friendly with Francis Crick and his wife.

During her illness, Franklin even stayed as a guest in Crick’s home.[76] After her death, when Crick was “asked whether, then, he believed that no one at King’s would ever have solved the problem [of the structure of DNA], Crick said, ‘Oh, don’t be silly. Of course Rosalind would have solved it…With Rosalind it was only a matter of time.'” [77], [78]

Although during their years in Randall’s laboratory at King’s College Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins often behaved like enemies, twelve years after Franklin’s death Wilkins in effect apologized for passing on her photographs and data to Watson without her permission:

It [the DNA research] was all here [at King’s]. They [Watson and Crick] were working at Cambridge along certain lines, and we were working along certain lines [at King’s]. It was a question of time. They could not have gone on to their model, their correct model, without the data [Rosalind] developed here. They had that—I blame myself, I was naïve—and they moved ahead.[79]

Unfortunately for Franklin, she never lived to hear his words of regret. But Wilkins’ words support the objective argument that he was wrong to secretly take Rosalind Franklin’s work, that James Watson was wrong to encourage and benefit from the unauthorized taking, and that at the very least Watson and Wilkins should have properly credited Franklin’s part in the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule.


Because the Nobel Prize is only given to living persons, and it has never gone to more than three people for one award, Rosalind Franklin posed no threat to Watson, Crick and Wilkins when they shared the award for Medicine in 1962. For Rosalind Franklin had died in 1958. But it would have been gracious and eminently just for them to have credited her “famous X-ray photograph”[80] of the DNA molecule with helping to unlock the secret of the human gene. In Watson’s own words recorded in 1999, “Rosalind’s X-ray work…was the proof that it was right.”[81]

Recommended Reading

It is not too late to set the record straight. It is important from a historical standpoint to recognize Rosalind Franklin’s enormous contribution to the revolutionary discovery of DNA, not only because of its objective truth, but also as an example for all present and future female students and scientists. “To rearrange a universe is creativity enough for anyone short of God, and this is very close to what they did.”[82]

If Rosalind Franklin had been given the proper recognition for her part in the discovery of the structure of DNA,[83] science classes today would properly refer to Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin, who, together, deserve recognition for the revolutionary discovery of the molecule’s structure.[84]

1. Ogilvie and Harvey, p.466. See also Appendix pp.1–5, containing the texts of the three Nature articles. They are included to illustrate that James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, authors of the first two articles, failed to credit Rosalind Franklin for her unprecedented X-ray photograph of the helical DNA molecule. The third article, authored by Franklin, contains her now-famous X-ray photograph of the DNA molecule with the X clearly visible, upon which Watson and Crick relied.

2. White, p.250.

3. The discovery of the structure of DNA has been called “the revolution in biology” by Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences. See his book-jacket review of James Watson’s book, A Passion for DNA: Genes, Genomes, and Society, New York: Cold Spring Harbor Press, 2000. The discovery has also been said to have “sparked a world-wide revolution.” Ibid.

4. White, p.250.

5. In his book, The Path to the Double Helix, science historian Robert Olby states, “I cannot recall the word DNA ever being mentioned when I was a student at London University in the early fifties. How times have changed!” p.ix.

6. Ibid, p.xxiii.

7. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1963 Ed. p.240.

8. See Appendix p.6, September 1953 group photograph of 47 of the world’s molecular biologists gathered at the Pasadena Conference on the Structure of Proteins. Olby, frontispiece.

9. Oakes, p.134.

10. Watson, The Double Helix, pp.5–101.

11. Encyclopedia of World Biography, p.67. The entry explains that Rosalind’s X-ray photographs of DNA established the basis for the structure of DNA.

12. In James Watson’s September 30, 1999 lecture inaugurating Harvard University’s Center for Genomics Research, (hereafter referred to as “Watson lecture”) he refers to “Rosalind’s X-ray photograph, the famous one.”

13. Oakes, p.134.

14. White, p.277.

15. Sayre, p.156.

16. Biological Science, p.221. See also Appendix p.7, a reproduction of page 39 from this high school biology textbook, which contains four photographs under the chapter heading entitled “The Double Helix.” They are of James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. The caption reads: “In 1953, James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick proposed a model for the DNA molecule based partly on the X-ray diffraction studies of Rosalind Franklin and M.H.F. Wilkins. Watson, Crick and Wilkins shared the Nobel prize in 1962.”

17. Sayre, p.32.

18. Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p.465.

19. Hellman, p.145.

20. Sayre, p.40.

21. Ibid, p.41.

22. Letter from Rosalind Franklin to her parents, March 16, 1938. Anne Sayre, p.55.

23. Encyclopedia of World Biography, p.67.

24. Oakes, p.134.

25. Rosalind Franklin was not only an expert X-ray crystallographer. She was also known for her excellent and diligent work on carbons and for her discovery of a certain type of valuable carbon polymer. Franklin became so well-known for these carbon polymers that in 1950, Bell Telephone Laboratories became interested in her pioneering work, “The Interpretation of Diffuse X-ray Diagrams of Carbon.” Nature article by Rosalind E. Franklin, Appendix pp.4–5. Also see letter of J.D. Bernal to the London Times, April 19, 1958, two days after Franklin’s death. Sayre, p.206.

26. Oakes, p.134.

27. Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p.466.

28. White, pp.282–283.

29. “Franklin, Rosalind Elsie.” Microsoft Encyclopedia Encarta. CD-ROM. 1999.

30. Hellman, p.155.

31. Letter of Anita Rimel, dated December 1970. Sayre, pp.215–216.

32. Interview with Klug quoted in White, p.261.

33. Interview with Jackson quoted in White, p.262.

34. Watson, The Double Helix, pp.17–18.

35. Janeway, p.102.

36. Watson, The Double Helix, p.20.

37. Interview with Crick. June 16, 1970. Sayre, p.212.

38. Interview with Crick quoted in White, pp.261–262.

39. Wilkins’ X-ray diffractions of DNA molecules were inferior to Franklin’s; his were “grainy and ill-defined.” Ibid, p.252.

40. Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p.466.

41. White, p.252.

42. Watson, The Double Helix, p.167.

43. Interview with Crick, reproduced in Sayre, pp.213–214.

44. Ardell, David. “Biotech: Rosalind Franklin.” About Biotech. . Accessed on October 4, 2001.

45. Parshall, pp.72–74.

46. Sayre, p.127.

47. James Watson by his own admission was “a birdwatcher” with no training in chemistry. Watson lecture.

48. Encyclopedia of World Scientists, p.134.

49. Hellman, pp.149–150.

50. Parshall, pp.72–74.

51. Hellman, p.145.

52. Watson, The Double Helix, p.16.

53. Oakes, p.134.

54. See Appendix p.8, Franklin’s famous X-ray crystallography photograph of the DNA molecule.

55. Watson lecture.

56. Ibid.

57. “Since the spring [of 1952] he [Wilkins] had been surreptitiously duplicating Franklin’s analytic work on DNA.” White, pp.277–278.

58. Parshall, pp.72–74.

59. Pauling discovered the principles that determine the shape and structure of molecules, Ibid, and went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954.

60. Watson, The Double Helix, pp.164–171, emphasis added.

61. In his 1999 lecture at Harvard, Watson recalled, “I was shown Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray photograph… Wilkins should have never shown me the thing. I didn’t go into the drawer and steal it, it was shown to me.” Watson lecture.

62. “In science…what must be understood is the extent to which anything divulged, or developed, or discovered in the course of the communication will be appropriately credited. Such agreement…is more than a nicety; it is, indeed, the moral equivalent of copyright or patent.” Sayre, pp.110–112.

63. Watson, The Double Helix, pp.110–112.

64. “Franklin told no one of her results. Only Gosling [her assistant] knew of these pictures.” White, p.277.

65. Ibid, p.169.

66. Nature article by J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick. Appendix p.1. In the second-to-last sentence of the paper the authors refer only in general terms to the “unpublished experimental results and ideas” of Wilkins and Franklin. The enormous significance of her X-ray photograph of the DNA molecule is ignored. Also see Watson’s, Crick’s and Wilkins’ Nobel 1962 lectures, where they omitted any mention of credit to Rosalind Franklin.

67. Watson recently said, “Francis [Crick] and I built the model [incorrectly] with the bases on the inside! In our defense, we weren’t chemists…We were incompetent…We should have had the structure in [19]51, and instead we built this awful molecule. Rosalind came up [to Cambridge] and said ‘the phosphates are on the outside!'” Watson lecture.

68. Watson lecture.

69. White, p.275.

70. See Appendix, p.8, reproduction of Rosalind Franklin’s famous X-ray crystallography photograph of the DNA molecule. Franklin and Gosling, Nature April 1953, p.740. Also see Olby, plate 23.

71. Watson lecture.

72. Sayre, pp.112–114.

73. Oakes, pp.134–135.

74. New York Times, April 17, 1958.

75. Watson, James D. Nobel Lecture. Stockholm. December 11, 1962.

76. Interview with Crick. June 16, 1970. Sayre, p.213.

77. Interview with Crick. June 16, 1970. Sayre, p.212.

78. Aaron Klug, a colleague of Franklin’s, described how close Rosalind Franklin was to discovering the structure of DNA when Watson and Crick published their model using her X-ray photograph of the molecule. Aaron Klug, “Rosalind Franklin and the Discovery of the Structure of DNA,” Nature 219 August 24, 1968: 808. Sayre pp. 164, 212.

79. Interview with Wilkins. June 15, 1970. Emphasis added. Sayre, p.210.

80. Watson lecture.

81. Ibid.

82. Sayre, p.157.

83. Hank Burchard. The Washington Post, December 18, 1987.

84. The omission of Rosalind Franklin’s name from most formal references to the discovery of the structure of DNA has been called a “slow and gentle robbery.” Sayre, p.189. Thankfully, one important omission has been rectified: After numerous complaints and a letter from a prominent scientist to the secretary of the British Museum, the museum amended its listing of those who had contributed to discovering the structure of DNA to include the name of Rosalind Franklin. Ibid, pp.189, 220.

BY: Sarah Rapoport

How to Cite this Article

There are three different ways you can cite this article.

1. To cite this article in an academic-style article or paper, use:

Guest Contribution, "Who discovered DNA?", History Cooperative, January 7, 2006, https://historycooperative.org/who-discovered-dna/. Accessed June 18, 2024

2. To link to this article in the text of an online publication, please use this URL:


3. If your web page requires an HTML link, please insert this code:

<a href="https://historycooperative.org/who-discovered-dna/">Who discovered DNA?</a>

Leave a Comment