FRANKLIN, Rosalind (1920-1958)
Plaque erected in 1992 by English Heritage at Donovan Court, 107 Drayton Gardens, Chelsea, London, SW10 9QS, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
ROSALIND FRANKLIN 1920-1958 Pioneer of the study of molecular structures including DNA lived here 1951-1958
Rosalind Franklin pioneered the study of molecular structures. Most notably, her research into DNA molecules helped Watson and Crick identify the structure of DNA in 1953.
Born in Notting Hill into a wealthy Anglo-Jewish family, Rosalind Franklin was educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, read natural sciences at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to carry out ground-breaking work in the emerging fields of molecular chemistry and biology.
Having worked for a time in Paris, she returned to England in 1951 to take up a fellowship at King’s College, London, and moved into Flat 22 at Donovan Court, a 1930s apartment block in Drayton Gardens, South Kensington.
At King’s, Franklin analysed forms of the DNA molecule using X-ray diffraction, and in 1951 was able to identify two forms: the crystalline ‘A’ pattern and the ‘B’ form that she suggested was probably a helix structure. It was her photographs of this latter form that were passed on to James Watson and Francis Crick for use in their own research into DNA.
Franklin moved to Birkbeck College in 1953 and turned her attention to the study of viruses under the supervision of JD Bernal. She remained at Donovan Court until her death at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, her life having been cut tragically short by cancer.
Rosalind Franklin’s work was crucial to the discovery of the structure of DNA by Crick and Watson, for which they – and Maurice Wilkins, her superior at King’s – won the Nobel Prize in 1962. The extent to which Franklin was effectively written out of the story has been a matter of controversy since. The award of a blue plaque 30 years later, at the suggestion of members of Franklin’s family, is part of a widening recognition of her role in a major scientific breakthrough.