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The Fundamental Impact of a Woman’s Work
In conjunction with the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the description of the DNA double helix in “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” (DNA), an ‘unsung hero’ is honored. Beginning her DNA research in 1950, Rosalind Franklin quickly made “marked advances in x-ray diffraction techniques with DNA. … She extracted finer DNA fibers than ever before and arranged them in parallel bundles.” And she discovered the “crucial keys to DNA's structure.” Her research was conducted at King’s College in London.
Without her knowledge, Maurice Wilkins, also involved in DNA research at King’s College, shared Franklin’s data with James Watson and Francis Crick, who then utilized this data in their research. Franklin’s “strained relationship with Wilkins and other aspects of King’s College (the women scientists were not allowed to eat lunch in the common room where the men did, for example) led Franklin to seek … [a] position … at Birkbeck College in London” where she “headed her own research group. … But the head of King’s let her go on the condition she would not work on DNA.”
The article containing the DNA description, published in 1953, was written by Francis Crick and James Watson. Their research was based upon Franklin’s data that Wilkins shared with them. For their DNA research, Crick, Watson, and Wilkins won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Related Information
- Edited excerpts from Rosalind Franklin, PBS
Trailblazer on the Path to Photosynthesis
March 2013 is the sixty-fifth (65th) anniversary of the first in a series of over 20 publications that reflect the exploration of the path of carbon in photosynthesis, the process by which plants capture energy from the sun. Spanning decades, this exploration eventually led to Department of Energy (DOE) research into solar energy.
The trailblazer who led this exploration was Melvin Calvin, a chemist at the University of California Berkeley Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin and his team mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting from its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds. In doing so, the Calvin group showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds. Calvin received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961 ‘for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants’.
In the early 1960’s, Calvin established Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Chemical Biodynamics division and directed it for two decades. Calvin's work in deciphering the role of carbon in photosynthesis led to a lifelong interest in adapting photosynthetic techniques for energy production. In his final years of active research, he studied the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy. He also spent many years testing the chemical evolution of life and wrote a book on the subject that was published in 1969. More Information
- Edited excerpts from Melvin Calvin, Who Unraveled the Secrets of Photosynthesis, Dies
The Value of a PET
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners were developed in the early 1970s and have revolutionized medical evaluation and treatment since. PET is a medical technique that permits the imaging of biological processes in the organ systems of living individuals. It provides insight into human metabolism and brain activation and function, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, addition, and other psychiatric and neurological disorders. PET also improves the diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular diseases, and many cancers, including lung, colorectal, breast, ovarian, lymphoma, melanoma, and prostate cancers. More Information
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