Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Credit Where Credit is Due?

In light of a new Ensemble Studio Theatre and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project play, "Photograph 51," which focuses on Rosalind Franklin and her X-ray diffraction work that contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA, Robin Lloyd at Scientific American's Observations blog considers whether Franklin was properly credited for her contributions. Although she was ineligible for the Nobel Prize because she had already died by the time it was awarded to James Watson and Francis Crick, some have argued that Franklin still deserves more credit for her contributions, especially as the famous image she took of the B-form molecule — "photograph 51," which depicts the double-helix structure of DNA — led directly to their discovery, Lloyd says. Watson was supposed to take part in a panel discussion about the play this week, but was unable to attend. In his absence, though, Nicholas Wade of the New York Times and California State University biologist Lynne Osman Elkin spurred a "vigorous" debate, indicating that controversy still surrounds Franklin's work, Lloyd adds. Wade said that Franklin deserves no more credit than she's already received because she was unaware that Watson and Crick were using her data in an "unauthorized" manner and therefore couldn't have felt wronged, Lloyd reports. Elkin took the opposite view, saying that Franklin had been treated unfairly. Scientific American has posted a podcast of the discussion, here.