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Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,978 ratings  ·  207 reviews
In 1962, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson received the Nobel Prize, but it was Rosalind Franklin's data and photographs of DNA that led to their discovery. Brenda Maddox tells a powerful story of a remarkably single-minded, forthright, and tempestuous young woman who, at the age of fifteen, decided she was going to be a scientist, but who was airbrushed out ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published June 17th 2002)
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Lynne King
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dna, science, biographies
I looked at this book again this morning after reading that Nicole Kidman will be playing Rosalind Franklin in "Photograph 51" at the Noël Coward Theatre in London until November 21, 2015. I wish I could go...

I am showing below a part of the excellent review too as I have a great admiration for Rosalind Franklin:

"....The title refers to the single X-ray diffraction photograph of DNA which, taken at King’s College London in 1952 under Franklin’s aegis (albeit by her PhD student assistant Raymond
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I like biographies. If they are well written and about half interesting people (not minor celebrities) then they're one of my favourite sorts of book. So this one was already on to a head start with me. I hadn't heard of Rosalind Franklin before picking this up and know little about science advances in DNA, though I had heard of Crick and Watson - which I guess is the point of this book.

I found the science content easy to grasp, though somewhat in depth and I enjoyed the interspersed facts about
Riku Sayuj
Read this to supplement the wonderful West End play Photograph 51, by Anna Ziegler. The original had Nicole Kidman as Dr. Franklin. Last weekend at Bangalore, we had the privilege of watching Bangalore Little Theatre put on an energetic and thought-provoking performance of the "race" to discover the secret of life. Worth a watch.

Maddox's work is a standard biography and checks all the boxes. Nothing special about the treatment, but it covers all the aspects. Of course, after the drama of the com
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A balanced and complete review of the life of a woman who has been ignored, maligned, or offered sycophant worship for her role in the early nucleic acid research. Only a few of her closest coworkers seem to have known enough about her to offer clear insight and to have kept to that image in subsequent years until this biography.
The message of the book is that she was mistreated and it is fair that Rosalind Franklin be adequately acknowledged for her contributions. All of her work not just the
'Rosy, of course, did not directly give us her data. For that matter, no one at King's realised they were in our hands.'

-James Watson, The Double Helix

The [words inserted by Franklin] were: 'Thus our general ideas are consistent with the model proposed by Crick and Watson.' So indeed they should have been consistent, considering that the Watson-Crick model was in large part derived from her work.

'Had it been the other way around,' the irascible Jerry Donohue said later, 'if someone anywhere h
Franklin was a renowned scientist in her own right, she established her reputation in X-ray photography starting with coal and moving onto viruses and DNA. She was a feisty character, and in her tragically short career she made as many friends as enemies.

Crick and Watson are the guys credited with discovering the layout of DNA, but they could not have done it without sight of some of her magnificent X-ray photographs of DNA. Theses had been passed to them without her knowledge, and it was the cl
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has read James Watson’s ‘The Double Helix’ where Rosalind Franklin is completely misrepresented as an incompetent, emotional woman in a man’s world joining the DNA discovery bandwagon must read this much more accurate and inspiring biography. Rosalind’s life, character, and contributions to science deserve to be recognised and celebrated. She was a woman of strength and intelligence who contributed 37 scientific publications in her brief 37 years on Earth. The most astonishing fact I ...more
Abhilesh Dhawanjewar
In 1969, James Watson published his candid, fast-paced account of the discovery of the structure of the DNA, The Double Helix. In it, Rosalind Franklin, or ‘Rosy’ in Watson’s terms (she apparently hated that name) is portrayed as a termagant who hoarded data she couldn’t comprehend, treated men as naughty little boys and took little interest in her looks, wearing dresses dowdier than the average Englishwoman. The Double Helix was an instant, unanimous best-seller that also sparked great controve ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a very in-depth biography of Rosalind Franklin ... perhaps a bit too in depth at times. I definitely did not need to know her measurements or when she started having periods! Plus there was a lot of history and genealogy about her family and history of the world that seemed rather superfluous to the story of Rosalind’s life.

She was really remarkable in what she accomplished in her short life. I wish she had taken more precautions with all of the x-ray material she worked with. She woul
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a massive fan of Rosalind Franklin I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time and my only regret is not having read it earlier. This is a very well researched biography of both her life and her work. It is completely gripping from beginning to end and had absolutely no dull moments. I would highly recommend this book, it has made me even more of a fan of this great scientist than I was before. ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rosalind Franklin is most remembered now as the unsung fourth contributor who found the evidence for Watson and Crick’s double-helix paper in the early 1950s. A brilliant experimentalist, Franklin actually made advances in three significant areas in her short life (she died of cancer at the age of 37): the understanding of coal, the shape of the DNA molecule, and the way RNA functions inside viruses.

A few notes about Maddox’s book and this remarkable scientist:

Franklin’s specialty was x-ray pho
Anne Thessen
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy biographies, science or women's studies
Recommended to Anne by: Ricky
I don't normally like biographies, but I enjoyed this book. Perhaps because I can relate to Rosalind Franklin. There was one part in the book where the author mentions that Franklin was unable to talk about her life's passion (science) with her loved ones. That struck a chord with me since I am also a scientist and I'm very used to people not really caring about what I do for a living. Most people will ask, but I know after a certain point their eyes will glaze over and they'll stop caring. If I ...more
Gary Schroeder
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Say "DNA." Who do you think of? Watson and Crick. And that's largely the way Watson has preferred it. But, had it not been for the experimental research of Rosalind Franklin, a different set of names might very well be on the tip of your tongue, for it was Franklin's exceptionally good crystallography photos that pointed the way to the double helix structure and put Watson and Crick on their way to publishing their seminal and Nobel prize-winning paper. Was it theft? No. Did they minimize her ro ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
3½ stars. Well-written biography of this somewhat tragic scientist. Maddox does a fine job balancing personal details with the science, and provides enough technical information for the reader to get a feeling for the biggest passion of Franklin's life. While Maddox is clearly in the "pro-Franklin" camp, I felt that she presents the controversy over Watson and Crick's use of her data in a fairly even manner. She attempts to show Franklin not as a feminist icon but as a real woman with strengths ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful reappraisal of the life of Rosalind Franklin, whose contributions to the discovery of the nature of DNA was largely unknown for many years after her untimely death in 1958. In many ways, her groundbreaking work was unrecognized because she was a woman working in a field dominated by men. I was motivated to read this after seeing a recent production of ‘Photograph 51’ at Renaissance Theatreworks, and I found it to be a very moving biography of an immensely gifted and dedicated scientist ...more
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir, science, uk
I found this book inspirational and sad. Inspirational in that Rosalind Franklin didn't allow the prejudice against her Jewish ancestry or her female gender keep her from her dream of being a scientist. Her story is sad because she seemed to have so little room to fully enjoy life. This book would be worth reading if for no other reason than to hear the "other side" of the story regarding the discovery of DNA.

Miglena M
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Truly inspirational, not only for the female scientists but for all the women who aspire to live by their own rules and continue to do what they love, despite what the world thinks who you should have been. Though the recognition came much later, the world is forever grateful for her seminal contributions to science.
Lucy May-Coulson
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m really not much of a non-fiction reader, so for me to give this four stars is pretty incredible. If you are at all interested in Rosalind Franklin and/or biology I highly recommend this book. It captures Rosalind’s life in a truly remarkable way.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unsorted
From my blog.

As a younger scientific reader, I had previously heard of Rosalind Franklin. Probably unlike the target audience of this biography, the general public, I have a rudimentary knowledge of her contribution to the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA, and the importance of it. This book was an informative read, however, on the life of a contributor to one of the greatest scientific discoveries in the 20th century.

It is clear that Franklin was a private person and that only a
Marsha Hay
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A slow start to a biography that got much better when the science started.
Beth (bibliobeth)
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars from me.Rosalind Franklin is unfortunately probably best known for not achieving the recognition she should have got in life for unravelling the secrets of DNA. Instead, two scientists called Francis Crick and James Watson boldly used parts of her work to find out the secrets for themselves and published their findings which led to them winning the Nobel Prize. Personally, I was aware of the dis-service that had been done to Franklin but did not realise until reading this ...more
Soumya Sreehari
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brenda-maddox, 2020
This is the story of Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant scientist of the 20th century. It is a biographical sketch with three parts – her early life and career, the much popular work on DNA, her later life and career. Rosalind Franklin has been widely known as the wronged scientist in the DNA story after the infamous book “Double Helix” by James Watson was published. This biography gives a balanced view of her life, her multifaceted personality, and her significant accomplishments in her field of re ...more
Harsha Gurnani
In one word: Inspiring.
(Especially because I'm starting my own PhD life, and I was also relieved and motivated by similarities (loosely, nothing to brag about) in attitude, principles, dreams and inter-personal relations, haha!)

Some of us associate Rosalind Franklin with the tragedy of missing out on her Nobel because of her early death, of not being given due credit for her experimental contributions to the discovery of (or rather evidence for) the helical nature of DNA, of being taken advanta
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
OK, OK, I finished reading it after stopping my wandering around, being chased by Louis Kim.

A fascinating book about a fascinating person. I started reading the book because I found the following quote on the web, a quote from a letter she wrote to her father around 1940.

"You frequently state, and in your letter you imply, that I have developed a completely one-sided outlook, and look at everything and think of everything in terms of science. Obviously my method of thought and reasoning is infl
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In the book "The Double Helix", Rosalind Franklin was presented as unpleasant, unattractive woman who was not fit to be doing science and was a road block in Watson's way to the double helix. There has been since the publication of the book a backlash to Watson's portrayal that has presented her as a martyr or a saint, unsung for her pivotal role in the discovery of the double helix. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Brenda Maddox presents a comprehensive, analytical, balanced, and ...more
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great biography on scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose x-ray crystallography data led Watson and Crick (used without her knowledge or permission) to their DNA discovery etc etc. Maddox details Franklin's life - her upbringing (upper-middle class Jewish in London), her education, her scientific works (studying coal in Paris, DNA at Kings College, and mainly tobacco mosaic virus at Birkbeck, and polio virus), her struggles with funding, and the relationships she had with her fellow researchers, fam ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: euro, non-fiction, science
Rosalind Franklin was a scientist maligned by male colleagues and then forgotten by history. Brenda Maddox rights these wrongs in delivering this interesting biography of a British scientist born in 1920 to a rich Jewish family, who died at age 37 from cancer. Despite her early death, Dr. Franklin published scientific papers prolifically in both coal studies and in virus research, it's a tragedy that she wasn't able to live longer and discover more. Although Dr. Franklin's meticulous research an ...more
Alannah Clarke
Lately I have not been a fan of biographies or autobiographies, it seems like everywhere I turn these days I see one about someone who is grabbing their fifteen minutes of fame after only being famous 'just for being famous' and if they do claim to write it, I always believe that some ghost-write is paid to write the book instead. Since I have been pushing myself to try and read more non-fiction, I tried this one since it was picked for the group non-fiction in my book group.

Before I picked thi
The first third of this book is painfully slow, lots of tiny details about Rosalind Franklin's life that seem to be mostly minutiae.

Fortunately, the book really picks up thereafter. The search for the structure of DNA was fast-paced, full of many interesting scientists, and had a major impact that is still felt today. Most folks already know the story of this search, especially considering that Francis and Crick received the Nobel Prize for their work. What is unfortunate is how little recognit
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Dark Lady of DNA is an oustanding non-fiction piece of literature. It is all about the life of Rosaling Franklin, and her part in the discovery of DNA. She had originally discovered DNA, but due to her lack of timing, she wasnt able to publish her data, therefore, thats Watson and Crick found her information, studied more upon it, and in the end got the most credit for the discovery of DNA. This is a great book for those of you who love science. I personally love reading about these scientif ...more
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Excellent book 4 10 Jul 19, 2014 01:55AM  
All About Books: Group Read (October-November) - 'The Dark Lady of DNA' by Brenda Maddox 33 50 Dec 30, 2013 02:39AM  

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Born in Brockton, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1932, Brenda Lee Power Murphy graduated from Harvard University (class of 1953) with a degree in English literature and also studied at the London School of Economics. She was a book reviewer for The Observer, The Times, New Statesman, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and regularly contributed to BBC Radio 4 as a critic and commentator. ...more

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“The fact is that in two unhappy years, working in isolation except for Gosling, in a field new to her, she had come within two steps of answering the most exciting question in post-war science. What is more, she, unknowingly, had provided all the essential data for those who took the two brilliant leaps of intuition — to anti-parallel chains and base pairs — that cracked the problem.” 1 likes
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