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Rosalind Franklin and D.N.A. Paperback – 30 Aug 2000

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Rosalind Franklin and D.N.A. + Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA + The Double Helix
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (30 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320442
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 263,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Anyone who read The Double Helix owes it to Franklin to read her story too."

(Arthur Cooper, Newsweek) "Highly readable, highly informative, and clearly explosive...Anne Sayre's book will certainly find a wide and enthusiastic audience." (Elizabeth Janeway) "Scholarly and eminently readable...I must urge, if not insist, that anyone who has read, or is to read, Watson's version of these events, must also read this other version in Sayre's book." -- Reviews

About the Author

Anne Sayre was a well-known journalist and a close friend of Rosalind Franklin's.

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In 1968, a book appeared which was read with great interest and much pleasure by a large number of people. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By penname on 28 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is, I think, a significant contribution to our understanding of the dubious behaviour of Franklin's contemporaries, her strong character, immaculate research techniques and the injustices she suffered at the hands of 'the establishment'. 'Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of D.N.A.' by Brenda Maddox adopts a slightly different approach to the same topics and it is strongly recommended that both accounts be read, to ensure a balanced understanding. Although there are contradictions, both accounts left me in no doubt that Rosalind Franklin deserved most of the credit for the discovery of the structure of DNA and a Nobel Prize. They also left me with a greatly diminished regard for James Watson in particular and Maurice Wilkins to a lesser extent. Subsequent reading has done nothing but reinforce that opinion.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. Acaster on 4 July 2014
Format: Paperback
This book arrived today. thank you.

It is second hand, I knew this. As soon as it arrived I realised it has been smoked over. I have decided to keep it and read it, but it is a great disappointment – I hate the smell. Is there any way that this can be reflected in the “grading”? Perhaps no book that has been smoked over should be graded “very good” or better.

I know this is not really a review, but I can't see a "contact us" button.

This is my first experiment in buying SH from Amazon, but it will put me off doing so again, or recommending buying SH from Amazon.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
What "The Double Helix" didn't tell you 21 Sept. 1999
By Jeremy M. Harris - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sayre's book is a biography with an agenda. It is also one of the rare instances where an author is sufficiently thoughtful and objective to keep the agenda from ruining the piece.
Rosalind Franklin was a chemist doing x-ray crystallography on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in Maurice Wilkins' laboratory at King's College, London. Concurrently, James Watson and Francis Crick were trying to puzzle out DNA's molecular structure in the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge. Technically the two institutions were not competitors, because the English scientific establishment had "ceded" the DNA problem to King's. The world knows that Watson and Crick were first to publish the correct structure of the substance which encodes and controls every detail of the configuration, development, maintenance and reproduction of living things.
Watson and Crick were the kind of bad boys we generally admire. From positions very low on the Cavendish totem pole, they tunneled under, around and through the decorous conventions of incremental science to snatch a Nobel-caliber breakthrough from the very hands of the people who were supposed (eventually) to produce it. They even had a plausible excuse for ethical shortcuts, because the American superstar-chemist Linus Pauling, unconstrained by British decorum, was known to be working on the DNA structure.
In 1968, Watson published "The Double Helix", an entertaining and irreverent personal account of the triumph he and Crick had achieved in 1953. On the positive side, the book gave many people (including myself) their first look at the fascinating scientific and human details of a brilliant achievement in the relatively new field of molecular biology. On the negative side, Watson's version of the story did not please everyone who had prior knowledge of the people and events involved. Among the least pleased, to put it mildly, were the family and friends of Rosalind Franklin (Ms. Franklin herself did not live to see the cruelly caricatured "Rosy" that Watson sketched for his largely naive and trusting audience.)
One of the friends, Anne Sayre, took on the task of providing a comprehensive portrait of Franklin, interwoven with a retelling of the DNA story centered on the tragic consequences flowing from the simple inability of two intelligent people (Franklin and Wilkins) to get along. But the book is much more than a psychological study. Sayre documents some unambiguous facts that establish what Franklin knew about DNA and when she knew it. Also revealed are the instances in which her work was used without her knowledge and, even more unfortunately, the degree to which misunderstanding of Franklin's conclusions about the B-form of DNA slowed everyone's progress and robbed her of due credit.
I found Sayre to be unfailingly perceptive and balanced while following a course of strong, even indignant, advocacy. This is no mean feat, and follows in part from her extensive interviews with all the principals, as well as fruitful discussions with her scientist husband. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in gaining perspective on the DNA story, and on science itself.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Reader from Sugar Land, Texas 18 Jan. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read James Watson's "The Double Helix" a number of years ago and assumed that it fairly described the events leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA. I especially remember the very negative impression I formed of Rosalind Franklin from Watson's description of her in that book.
Recently, while browsing in a local bookstore, I came across Sayre's book "Rosalind Franklin and DNA." It caught my attention because I enjoy reading about scientists, their lives, and their work. The book claimed to "set the record straight" concerning the story of Rosalind Franklin which also piqued my interest.
After reading this book, I must admit that I am quite baffled by the September 10, 2001 review from Baltimore below. I can assure anyone thinking about reading this book that it is exceptionally well written and very entertaining (not to mention extremely enlightening).
It is a well structured and convincing argument against Watson's very negative depiction of Franklin as a person and his condescending assessment of her abilities and accomplishments as a scientist. Although it is obvious that Sayre is arguing with the emotional zeal of one defending the reputation of a dear friend, she is very professional and methodical in her approach. She presents an overwhelming amount of testimony from the many people who know Rosalind Franklin intimately, (which Watson did not) and a very thorough and professional review of the pertinent scientific literature (which contradicts almost every opinion Watson gave of Franklin's work and abilities as a scientist). I gained a much better understanding and appreciation for who Rosalind Franklin was and what she really contributed to the pioneering work surrounding DNA. I regret that I so long maintained the distorted opinion gained from Watson's book.
I've always admired and respected James Watson as a scientist, but if Sayre's book paints a true picture then I am quite disappointed in him as a person. If you are a Watson-worshipper, you definitely will not like this book. But if you have an open mind and possess a sense of fairness you'll appreciate hearing Rosalind's side of the story as told through her friend Anne Sayre.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
The Forgotten Heroine of the Double Helix 15 Nov. 2003
By Stephen Pletko - Published on
Format: Paperback

I read Dr. James Watson's "The Double Helix"(1968) years ago. In it, he badly caricatured Dr. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) by systematically stereotyping her. (However, in his book's epilogue he does admit that his initial impressions of her were often wrong.)

I forgot about this until I read the late Dr. Linus Pauling's "How to Live Longer and Feel Better" (1986). In the 'About the Author' section I read the following: "Watson and [Dr. Francis] Crick [both of whom worked in the Cavendish lab at Cambridge University, England] proposed the double-helix structure, which turned out to be correct. Watson and Crick had the advantage of X-ray [diffraction] photographs of DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin [who worked in a lab at King's College, a division of the University of London], an advantage denied Pauling [who worked overseas in a U.S. lab]."

Years later I read "Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker" (2001). One science article in this book called "The Triple Helix" said Pauling saw Franklin as "a talented young crystallographer [a scientist who is expert in structure and properties of crystals]" and that he had great admiration for her abilities. It also states that "[Dr. Maurice] Wilkins [the scientist who 'worked with' Franklin at King's College] was not...well trained in [the] interpretation of X-ray photos [like Franklin was]."

Thus, my interest was aroused!! I wanted to learn more about Franklin. I thus chose Anne Sayre's book for two reasons:

(1) It was originally published in 1975, just over 15 years after Franklin's death meaning the memories of events were still relatively fresh in people's minds and key people were still alive. (Contrast this to a book written in 2002, ALMOST 45 YEARS after Franklin's death. Are people's memories still reliable and are all key people still alive?)

(2) Since Sayre was Franklin's friend, she would be privy to information that only friends could share.

Sayre's book has many good features:

(1) ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS SECTION. In it she stated that she interviewed many scientists and/or their wives as well as significant others that were still alive. She also had access to her scientist husband (who was also a crystallographer) as well as Franklin's mother and friends.

I was surprised that Wilkins and Watson both consented "to lengthy and frank interviews." Crick also consented.

Knowing all this quelled my trepidation that this book would somehow be biased and inaccurate.

(2) THE BOOK'S INTRODUCTION (chapter 1). Here she tells us why she wrote this book. It was in response to Watson's caricature of Franklin in his 1968 book. Sayre states, "[She] was not recognizable as Rosalind Franklin. She was recognizable as something else not related to the facts."

Sayre also states that her book is more than just a biography since "biography is too cruel a word to use in connection with a life which was over long before it was finished."

(3) THE BOOK'S CONTENT (chapters 2 to 11). These chapters give a good, detailed description of Franklin. These chapters can be divided into three parts. In these parts the author describes the science Franklin was involved in. Sayre does a good job in making the science understandable. These parts also touch on other things such as science ethics and communication, the nature of science, psychology, and sexism in science. As well, included are copies of Franklin's critical lab notes and transcriptions of interviews with key people.

Part I includes chapters 2 and 3. This part give insight into Franklin's character, her education, significant people she met, and much more. It covers the years from 1920 to 1950.

Part II includes chapters 4 to 9. It covers the years from 1951 to early 1953. These were the years she worked in DNA research.

The major event that transpired during these years was that Wilkins (and others) passed Franklin's data and her X-ray photos of DNA (especially the X-ray photo of the alternative or 'B' form of DNA) to Watson and Crick without her permission, and this critical information enabled them to determine the structure of DNA. (Pauling's structural model was inadequate because, as mentioned, he did not have access to these photos.)

Part III encompasses chapters 10 and 11. It covers the years from mid-1953 to Franklin's death from cancer in 1958. During this time, she worked at a different lab on tobacco virus research and later, on polio virus research.

(4) THE BOOK'S AFTERWORD SECTION. This section discusses various issues vigorously. Some examples of what's discussed include the importance of Franklin's discoveries, what might have been if she had not died so young, how poorly Watson's book portrayed her, and more.

(5) NOTES. There are over ten pages of footnotes at the end of the book. These contain REVEALING information that never made it into the main narrative.

(6) PAULING'S BOOK ENDORSEMENT. This two-time Nobel Prize winner states his endorsement on the book's back cover. I think this speaks volumes for the book's quality!

It's good to know that Rosalind Franklin is now being honored posthumously and her reputation is being restored as part of a government crusade against sexism in science. Also, as of 2002, the "Franklin Medal" is awarded in her honor to exceptional women scientists.

Finally, besides the books mentioned above, I recommend reading "The Third Man of the Double Helix" (November 2003) by Maurice Wilkins to get his side of this story.

In conclusion, if you want to learn about a gifted female scientist and know the true story of the discovery of DNA's structure, then read this fascinating and honest book!!!

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The True Story of the Double Helix 25 July 2002
By Norris Keeler - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I first read Watson's "Double Helix" there were a few things that bothered me. First, it is clear that this guy was really full of himself- that's OK, maybe he's entitled, but his view of science as an exercise in cunning, of "beating others in the race", finding out what they were doing but keeping your results close to your vest, was so at odds with the prevailing view of science and ethics that Harvard University Press refused to publish it. And of course, what seemed to be continual derogatory references to Rosalind Franklin and her family- "Rosy has to go". How in the world could Watson call for the firing of somebody working in another Laboratory many miles away?
Of course, Rosalind Franklin had died by that time and couldn't defend herself.
But as an experimental physicist, I could not understand Watson's fixation on large tinkertoy models. After all,the data supporting such a structure has to be obtained elsewhere, from physics experiments like x-ray diffraction. And Anne Sayre's book explains this to the popular reader.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about all this is the support she received from Max Perutz and Aaron Klug, among others.
Klug and Franklin were the first to determine the structure of a virus (just before her death). She never knew that a few years before, Wilkins, also at Kings College, had given her experimental results to Watson, allowing him to obtain the correct structure for DNA.
Aaron Klug won the Nobel Prize in 1982. On June 25, 1997, he dedicated the new Rosalind Franklin Laboratory at Birkbeck College in London
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant report on the tragic life and career of a lady scientist 6 July 2005
By David Drori Dr - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rosalind Franklin was a topnotch crystallographer in the U.K. who discovered the double helical structure of DNA in the 1950's and was about to publish it. But the scientists who received the immediate credit and enjoyed fame for the discovery were three men who worked on the same problem by modeling, a method rather different from that of Rosalind's method. The men were (by now) world famous James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. They got ahold of Rosalind's data without her knowledge and beat her to the finish line... And they never gave her proper credit. In his best selling "The Double Helix" Mr. Watson even wrote about her rather unflattering lines. ("Although she made essential contributions toward elucidating the structure of DNA, Rosalind Franklin is known to many only as seen through the distorting lens of James Watson's book" ex: Physics Today)

After Rosalind's death from cancer the trio even received a Nobel prize for "their" discovery. The story of Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958) is a true story of competition and intrigue. Both are common among scientists. But, to my knowledge, never before have they come so close to treachery and deceit. Three men scientists used the results obtained by one woman without her knowledge and became famous overnight. For an excellent one-page summary of this story read: (The) Rosalind Franklin question in Critical Point: March 2003 (on the net). But if you want to read a fair, intelligent, balanced and reasonably detailed but not overlong book, read Sayre. It is a perfect science history book and an elegant feminist book at the same time. Factual, easy and impressive, written by a friend of Rosalind.
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