In this discussion forum, discuss how credit in science should be distributed. Specially address one of these questions.
1. Did Watson and Crick obtain Franklin’s data fairly?
2. Did Watson and Crick acknowledge her data fairly?
3. Why wasn’t Franklin honored for her contributions?
4. How might Franklin’s treatment been due to the fact that she was a woman?
5. What other similar situations have happened? Research and present your findings.
DISCUSSION: Did Watson and Crick really discover DNA?
For a long time the credit for the discovery of DNA was given to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, all of whom won a Nobel prize for their work in 1962.
This is not entirely true. DNA was first identified in the 1860s by a Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher. In the years following Miescher’s work, other scientists contributed significantly to the understanding of the DNA molecule. Russian biochemist Phoebus Levene was the first to discover the order of the three major components of a single nucleotide (phosphate-sugar-base). He was also the first to discover the carbohydrate component of RNA (ribose) as well as DNA (deoxyribose). He was the first to correctly identify the way RNA and DNA molecules are put together.
Erwin Chargaff was one of a few scientists who added more pieces of the DNA puzzle. Chargaff concluded that the nucleotide composition of DNA varies among species. However, no matter what organism the DNA comes from, it maintains certain properties even as its composition varies.
All of this work provided the information needed by Watson and Crick to determine the three dimensional structure of DNA. But the contribution of one particular individual, Rosalind Franklin was complete overlooked – or even ignored.
Rosalind Franklin was a specialist in x-ray diffraction, a skill which helped her generate the first image of DNA showing the helix form. However, after their publication in Science magazine Watson and Crick were credited with the discovery of the structure. In his memoir, The Double Helix, Watson dismissed Franklin’s contributions. Later it was found out that Wilkin’s had shown Watson and Crick Franklin’s image without her permission or knowledge. While Watson and Crick had been attempting to model DNA for months, they were only able to figure out the correct structure after seeing Franklin’s image. Eventually, they admitted that they had seen Franklin’s picture and used the information without giving her credit. Rosalind Franklin died of cancer in her late 30s, thus never knew her work had finally been recognized.
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