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  • Writer's pictureDr. Orna Kretchmer

National DNA Day and gender inequality in science





Today, April 25, we recognize National DNA Day. On this day in 1953 Watson and Crick announced their discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid DNA  - the molecule that carries genetic information for the development and functioning of most living things . On this day we must remember and recognize  Dr. Rosalind Franklin - a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (as well as RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite). Franklin's contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely unrecognized during her life, for which Franklin has been variously referred to as the "wronged heroine", the "dark lady of DNA” and more (see references below).



Dr. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)


Rosalind Franklin's story is often cited as a prime example of the injustices faced by women in science. As an X-ray crystallographer, Franklin played a crucial role in uncovering the structure of DNA. Her work provided key data that were instrumental in James Watson and Francis Crick's elucidation of the double helix structure of DNA, a discovery that won them the Nobel Prize in 1962.

However, Franklin's contributions were not fully recognized during her lifetime. She faced discrimination and marginalization in the male-dominated scientific community of the time. One of the most infamous incidents was the unauthorized use of her data by Watson and Crick, who obtained a critical photograph, known as "Photograph 51," without her knowledge or consent. This photograph provided crucial insights into the structure of DNA.


Photograph 51




Her story highlights broader issues of sexism and gender inequality in science, which persist to this day. Women scientists faced obstacles such as implicit bias, unequal opportunities for funding and advancement, and a lack of recognition for their contributions throughout history and unfortunately till this day.


Efforts to address these injustices are being made, and include promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, advocating for equal opportunities and recognition for women scientists, and raising awareness of the contributions of overlooked figures like Rosalind Franklin. By acknowledging and rectifying past injustices and working towards a more equitable future, we can create a scientific community where talent and contributions are valued regardless of gender.




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