Jenifer Glynn: “My Sister Rosalind Franklin”.
Thurs 17th May 2012 at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.
As a chemistry undergraduate I was always subliminally aware of Rosalind Franklin, that she made an important contribution to the biological applications of x-ray diffraction but that there was some controversy though I wasn’t quite what it was all about. Doing my PhD at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge I walked past her model of tobacco mosaic virus regularly without actually realising what it was and who made it. So when the opportunity arose to invite her sister Jenifer Glynn to speak about her forthcoming book “My Sister Rosalind Franklin” it was a great opportunity to clarify those myths.
Jenifer put paid to those myths and described Rosalind’s character with clarity and obvious affection. Her talk was illustrated with a wealth of family photos showing Rosalind first as a small child with an infectious sense of humour and fun. Then as an adult on holiday in the mountains, clearly a very free spirit, enjoying climbing and long walks, attempting quite dangerous climbing trips, motoring through Europe. The picture she drew was of a fun-loving woman and a very dedicated and conscientious scientist: a picture quite at odds with the dour-sounding “dark lady of DNA.”
Rosalind’s contribution to science was not just in investigating the structure of DNA, that in itself lasted only two years. Prior to her work on DNA she made important contributions to the understanding of the structure of coal and its porosity during her time in Paris. After the work on DNA at Kings College London, which was marred by the unpleasantness of her work environment, she had success with the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus and embarked on the structure of the polio virus.