Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920 - 1958)

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Rosalind Elsie Franklin
Born in Notting Hill, London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Sister of , [private brother (1920s - unknown)], [private brother (1920s - unknown)] and [private sister (1920s - unknown)]
Died in Chelsea, London, Englandmap
Profile last modified 20 Apr 2020 | Created 4 Apr 2013 | Last significant change: 28 Apr 2020
10:07: Elizabeth Joanne Humay posted a comment on the page for Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958) [Thank Elizabeth Joanne for this]
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Rosalind Franklin was a British biophysicist who helped pioneer the discovery of the structure of DNA and its contributions to genetic structure.[1]

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born July 25, 1920 in Notting Hill, London, England, United Kingdom into an influential Jewish family, [1][2] a daughter of Ellis Arthur Franklin and Muriel Frances Waley. Her father was a London merchant banker who also taught electricity, magnetism, and World War I history at Working Men's College in the evenings and later became vice principal. Rosalind was the elder daughter of their five children. Her family helped settle Jewish refugees from Europe who had escaped the Nazis.[3]

From early childhood, Rosalind showed exceptional intellectual abilities. She attended St. Paul's Girls' School while young, and later studied chemistry at Newnham College, Cambridge, England. Her aptitude in science was clear from an early age.[3]

She was prepared to pursue a research fellowship in chemistry at Cambridge, but World War II derailed her plans. Instead she worked for the British Coal Utilisation Reseach Association, investigating the traits of carbon and coal, in addition to also serving as a London air raid warden. Her work during this time contributed to her doctoral thesis, resulting in her receiving her doctorate from Cambridge in 1945. From 1947 to 1950, she studied X-ray diffraction technology with Jacques Méring in Paris.[1]

In 1951, Rosalind began a fellowship at the Biophysical Laboratory at King's College, London. She applied what she learned of X-ray diffraction methods to the study of DNA, which was still a very unknown field. She was able to discover the density of DNA as well as the fact that it existed in a helical conformation. Working with James Watson and Francis Crick, the structure of DNA was realized, a double-helix polymer, two strands of genetic material spiraled around each other. This was due largely in part to Rosalind's work in using X-rays to photograph the DNA structure. Her discovery of the dual helical structure was first published in "Nature" journal in 1953. Unfortunately, Rosalind was no longer alive by the time the other three reseachers involved, Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, were awarded their Nobel prizes for the DNA research.[1][4]

From 1953 until her death, Rosalind worked in the Crystallography Laboratory at Birkbeck College in London, focusing on the molecular structure of the tobacco mosaic and polio viruses, most notably, the single strand nature of RNA within the virus.[1][3]

Rosalind died of complications from ovarian cancer on April 16, 1958 in Chelsea, London, England, United Kingdom.[5][3][6] She is buried in Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery, Willesden, London, England.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4
  2. "England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008," database, FamilySearch ( : 1 October 2014), Rosalind E Franklin, 1920; from "England & Wales Births, 1837-2006," database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Kensington, London, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Rosalind Franklin on Wikipedia
  4. "X-ray vision reveals the shape of DNA", The Guardian, London, England. 19 Jan 1993, page 57. Accessed via 17 Apr 2020.
  5. Rosalind Franklin on
  6. "England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 September 2014), Rosalind E Franklin, 1958; from "England & Wales Deaths, 1837-2006," database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing Death, Chelsea, London, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.
  7. Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 17 April 2020), memorial page for Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 Jul 1920–16 Apr 1958), Find A Grave: Memorial #5858699, citing Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery, Willesden, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .

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Rosalind Elsie Franklin is your 9th cousin once removed's wife's first cousin's husband's niece.

You → Elizabeth Lorraine Humay your mother → James Melville Fletcher her father → David Melville Fletcher his father → James Miller Fletcher his father → Katherine Smith Fletcher his mother → David Duncan Melville her father → Andrew Donaldson Melville his father → Janet Melvill his mother → David Bell her father → Janet Bell his mother → Elizabeth Craig her sister → Janet Brodie her daughter → Sir James Grant of Grant, 6th Baronet of Colquhoun her son → Jean Duff his daughter → James Duff, 2nd Earl Fife her son → General Sir James Duff his son → Sir James Duff his son → Eliza Georgiana Tollemache his daughter → Hon. Alfred Douglas Tollemache her son → Humphrey Douglas Tollemache his son → Elsie Violet Tollemache his wife → William George Raphael her father → Elinor Jessel his sister → Kathleen Ella Franklin her daughter → Cecil Arthur Franklin her husband → Ellis Arthur Franklin his brother → Rosalind Elsie Franklin his daughter

posted by Elizabeth Joanne Humay
Named in her honor: Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science at North Chicago, Illinois
posted by Dick Ammann
I recently saw a documentary about the discovery of our DNA. It tells the history and many of the people involved including Rosalind. It also mentions a Morgan cousin of mine for whom cM units [centi Morgan] are named. These were true pioneers of a new and evolving science. The benefits of which we are only beginning to comprehend! Thank you also to the profile managers and all others that make this site work!
posted by Ken Morgan
edited by Ken Morgan

Your cousin is on wikitree: The first Kentuckyian to win a Nobel Prize!

posted by Mark Burch
edited by Mark Burch
What does this mean?

"This was due largely in part to Rosalind's work..." It sounds self-contradictory.

posted by Janet Gunn
Rosalind's discovery of the structure was critical for Watson and Crick to propose a model for the structure of DNA. Watson criticized her very unfairly in Jim Watson's first autobiography. I am not sure if he ever corrected his assessment of her. Rosalind would not give Watson and Crick the structure until she had finished all her studies to confirm her work. She was meticulous, something Jim Watson could not appreciate. RIP Rosalind, even though you did not receive the nobel prize officially, you are a winner!
posted by Carolyn (Cole) Napoli
Read the Watson book - I've read it twice. Watson and Crick could not have done their work so soon or so well without Rosiland's work. I think they were a little reluctant to give her the credit she deserved.
Franklin's DNA x-ray structure pictures were so clear because she was able to crystallize very pure DNA for the work. This is no mean skill!
posted by Jane (Snell) Copes
Hi there profile managers!

We plan on featuring Rosalind as the Example Profile of the Week in the Connection finder next week. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. I will check on the profile closer to the week we'll feature it and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann

Rosalind is 26 degrees from Donald Howard, 18 degrees from Julia Howe and 20 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.