Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose research was foundational to the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, for which three male colleagues at King's College London won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. July 25 marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.
Her male colleagues—James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins—used unpublished DNA diffraction data that she had collected without her authorization in reaching their model for the helical structure of DNA for which they were honored. The discovery of the structure of DNA was a turning point in the history of science and introduced the modern era of biology.
Franklin could not be nominated for the Nobel Prize together with the three men because she had died in 1958 of ovarian cancer, quite possibly as a result of her work with radiation. The Nobel Committee did not, and still does not award posthumous awards. James Watson later said in an interview that Franklin should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Posthumous honors include namings of numerous academic institutes and buildings, awards, plaques and statues.