Watson and Crick Update

Angry Bear’s girlfriend (let’s call her Honey Bear, or HB), who knows a lot about DNA, takes exception to my separately including Watson and Crick and points me to Rosalind Franklin and DNA, by Anne Sayre. I, perhaps like many others, have not heard of Franklin. As it turns out, though, Franklin took the first X-Ray photographs of DNA. Morevoer, these photographs were, without Franklin’s knowledge, shown to Watson and apparently had a significant impact on his thinking and work (enough that Watson spent more than one sentence in The Double Helix denigrating Franklin–one Amazon reviewer wrote that “I especially remember the very negative impression I formed of Rosalind Franklin from Watson’s description of her in that book”).

Anne Sayre was a close friend of Rosalind Franklin, which is no reason not to write the book, but this might make some doubt the side of the story that she presents. A recent book, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, by accomplished biographer Brenda Maddox, as well as reviews thereof by Scientific American and The New England Journal of Medicine, backs up Sayre’s account.

HB’s recommended modification to the list is to include Watson and Crick together (their accomplishments were real, but built directly upon the unacknowledged work of Franklin), while giving Franklin her own spot on the list. I agree.