The secrets of the DNA molecule

Suddenly, it happens. In a long-term research project, a breakthrough suddenly occurs or chance plays into the hands of the researchers. A new crucial discovery is made.

MAY 1952, King’s College, London. Rosalind. E. Franklin and doctoral student Raymond Gosling take a photograph using X-ray crystallography, which turns out to be one of science’s most important images. The image, Photo 51, shows the structure of the DNA molecule for the first time ever.

FRANKLIN’S colleague Maurice Wilkins showed the photograph to Cambridge researchers James Watson and Francis Crick, and it became an important source for their work to develop a DNA model. Photo 51 clearly showed that the structure of the DNA molecule consists of a helix: two long chemical chains winding around each other in a double spiral. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery. Sadly, Franklin had already died by then, aged 37.