Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in STEM and particularly their figurehead, Ada Lovelace.
Ada is a particularly important figure for me at the moment, because the protagonist of my Cyber Crime Sleuth novel idolises her. Her internet handle is based on her name, her beloved computer is named for her, and she models herself on this driven woman who immersed herself in numbers and logic.
Ada Lovelace Day calls for blogs to celebrate women in STEM, so without further ado, I bring you a short history of Rosalind Franklin:
Deoxyribonucleic acid is the building block of every advanced lifeform on the planet. It is formed of a double helix structure, a ladder of matched pairs of adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. Anyone with a GCSE in biology has learned this at some point, and the names associated with its discovery: Watson and Crick.
Watson and Crick were unlikely discoverers, and the truth is that they used a lot of other people’s work to put together their theory. One of the most important people they *ahem* borrowed from was Rosalind Franklin.
Franklin photographed the structure of DNA using x-ray diffraction techniques. This was the last piece of the puzzle and from there Watson and Crick founded their theory.
Franklin went largely uncredited for this piece of work and faced derision and a patronising attitude from Watson and Crick, who referred to her by a diminutive pet name, while others called her a fool.
She was also unable to receive Nobel recognition for her contribution, as she sadly died in 1958 from ovarian cancer. It is possible that the radiation exposure from her work contributed to her death, like Marie Curie before her. During her last year of life, she was still contributing to science, studying the polio virus.